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After school activities – how many?

There is an abundance of wonderful opportunities for after school clubs and activities these days from football, dance, rugby, swimming and any sport you can think of, to music, scouting and drama, just to name a few. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the right balance between keeping children busy, allowing them to learn new skills they would otherwise miss out on and ensuring they still have plenty of free time and relaxation.

Learning photography

I believe it’s important children have lots of time for free play, to run around outside and explore their own environment themselves. This is how children learn best, through experience. They also need time to relax and unwind, play with friends and use their own imagination. It is an essential part of growing up.

However, clubs and activities have their place too, for example swimming. It is a life skill that could save a life one day. Schools don’t appear to teach swimming to any great extent, so it is up to the parents to ensure children learn, which inevitably means after school classes.

After school clubs provide social interaction and the opportunity to learn new skills. Many keep children active, which has to be a good thing. They help children find friends outside of school and give kids an interest or hobby.

This is all good, but the difficulty comes when trying to find the right balance between after school activities and allowing them enough free time to be themselves and unwind. How many clubs should children attend?

If kids attend too many, are they in danger of being over stimulated? Will they in turn not have enough time to unwind each day, to explore things for themselves? Will they be at risk of being bored whenever they are not being provided with entertainment? This is worrying, children need to learn how to amuse themselves and if they are provided with activities and stimulation all the time, how can they possibly learn to amuse themselves?

On the other hand, by keeping kids busy attending clubs, are we helping ensure they have a hobby and maybe stay out of trouble? I attended many after school clubs and activities from music to swimming and guiding. I loved all of it, stayed out of trouble and was never in danger of being bored as I had so many hobbies. This has to be a good example, though I’m sure others may have a different story.

There is also another point to consider, the impact on the whole family. When you have multiple children who all want to attend several clubs in different locations…..well, that’s just a pure logistical nightmare and the parents end up being taxi drivers, often carting younger siblings here there and everywhere too! There is also the cost implication. Clubs and activities, don’t come cheap, how do you prioritize?

There are many pros and cons to this subject and we all need to find the right balance for our own children and family.

What do you think? How many after school clubs is the right amount for children to belong to?

16 thoughts on “After school activities – how many?”

  1. Great post, raising good points. I think it’s very important for children to be able to relax and play after school. So we limit the clubs to 1 per child ( have 3 ).

    Even then, with all the homework and projects that the School demands, I sometimes feel even 1 after-school activity is too many.

  2. It’s a hard one to judge. Going by what my brother and I used to do, it wasn’t really until juniors (7) we started to do activities after school – we learnt to swim early/then through school so didn’t need lessons outside as well.

    We both did sports teams at primary – netball, football, rounders so I guess there was practice and then a match every so often. I did brownies then guides, did ballet and modern dance. I played clarinet from age 9.

    And my Saturdays were manic – music school on Saturday mornings and dancing around lunchtime.afterwards. But none of it was a chore because I’d chosen to do the activities and really benefited. I think at secondary school I only had Sundays free and one day a week (which was then taken up near exams/shows with extra dance classes).

    Once I stopped guides I then did 2 other musical instruments (one in school, one after). We were both in sports teams too – so it really was mad, although most were in the village apart from dancing and music lessons so it wasn’t too much travelling for my mum, plus we all shared lifts with others, or got buses.

    I do think we would struggle to do much with N if it’s not organised at or around school because we’re both working where my mum didn’t and we have to travel anywhere by car. I don’t know how she managed to afford everything though.

    I also think that nowadays they seem to have a lot more homework than we ever had, so doesn’t really allow for much in the way of time after school for activities.

    I hope N does get interested in music and sport, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue Saturday swimming classes rather than when he’s tired after school. But it’ll be following his lead.

  3. A really good post and something my friends and I talk about. My daughter has two after school activities and I think that’s enough for her and for family life.

    I teach one night a week so with her activities that’s three busy nights in the week on top of work and school.

    A friend has a daughter who swims and does gym six days out of a week and I don’t know how she does it. It then becomes difficult when we try to arrange meeting up as it has to work with her commitments which sometimes feels a bit much.

    But its up to each individual family, if they want to include the activities for their children.

  4. My 4 year old son started primary school last September and when he started with that he also started an after school lesson, tennis.

    But I love that the teacher or the coach as my son would correct me is nice to him and the younger kids. If they are not into it he let them watch.

    Since its fun my son would end up joining after few minutes of resting. The school offered a lot of sporty things to try but we only took one just to see how he will react.

    We are definitely looking at swimming lessons =)

  5. This has always been something that concerned me as Grace has got bigger but I think we have eased her in gently.

    She started off with a few after school clubs but now we have it restricted to two days – Tuesday and Wednesday – where she does one after school club (games such as hockey and football), brownies, piano and dancing. I think that is enough for her!

    Monday, Thursday and Friday are her down time days. I think we have hit the right balance for her.

    Great discussion.

  6. My eldest has just started school and I have been wondering whether to suggest her starting Rainbows, she already does Hockey on a Saturday morning and is quite tired after school at the moment so I think it would be better to wait until the spring maybe when she is a bit older and used to school.

    I think as long as your child is happy, getting on well at school and not too tired then clubs are a good thing if it is what they want. Some children need the rest and others need to be doing something, you know what is right for your children.

  7. I enjoyed reading your post – it’s certainly a thought provoking subject! I’ve found that the number of activities has contracted and increased depending on which stage my children were at.

    When my son started primary one we simply found he couldn’t cope with much apart from school – he’s now in primary four and has gradually taken on more.

    My daughter at age ten is now becoming more discerning about what she wishes to focus her attention on, i.e she may have dropped some activities but has perhaps signed up for longer/extra sessions at the activities she enjoys most.

    As with many others, the one thing I’ve insisted on is that both children persevere with swimming until they are safe and confident in the water.

  8. My kids both do Rookies (junior life saving), scouts/cubs and a music lesson. Additionally my son does tennis and various other sports from time to time, whilst my daughter does science club and badminton.

    She has just started secondary and there is an expectation that they’ll do clubs. These sound like quite a lot but my kids would probably just be stuck in front of a screen otherwise!

  9. I was just talking to a friend about this the other day. As my son starts next year and you think what is too much and what is too little. I can imagine once they both are in school the logistics get a bit crazy.

    I am lucky that my two are very close in age so they will be at the same school for a very long time so after school clubs hopefully will be similar places. but children need to run free for sure. I think at first they are overwhelmed enough when they first start school and so exhausted but maybe the second year to start with one or two.

    Great post and great thing to think about the balance and cause and effect on the kids as much as the bank account.

  10. You’ve raised a great point. My son does Scouts and my daughter does Brownies and they both do karate. I have recently stopped them from joining computer club because I think 2 each is more than enough.

    The other nights they go and play with their friends or play at home but nothing structured, just the chance to relax and be children.

  11. Ooh this is such a tricky one! Mine are too small at the moment to do after-school clubs, although F has swimming lessons at 3, and S will follow suit next year. I’m inclined to think that children do need lots of rest and relaxation time after school, especially if they are to get to bed at a reasonable time.

    BUT I was a child who wanted to be in every sports team/after school club going, and did something every day after school and at weekends, my time was packed and I loved it! I didn’t have siblings close in age though, so it was great to socialise.

    The downside was I was always one of those children looking to be entertained at home (thankfully I’m not anymore!), so there is an element of truth I think in kids needing more time just to play by themselves and just ‘be’.

  12. I have been trying to reorganise my children’s activities so that we have some down time after school. I have three kids and I cap their activities at three each, otherwise I am running them here, there and everywhere every night.

    My eldest has finished swimming now because she is competent in the water. She will be going to secondary school next September, so she won’t be able to do as much after school due to homework demands.

    I think it is important to be at home after school on some days, to have play dates and just go out in the garden and make up your own games.

    It is hard to find the balance but I believe it is possible to give them opportunities to learn skills, but allow them to develop their imagination through play too.

  13. My son is 6 in December and doesn’t do any. He’s still so tired after school!!! We did used to do swimming after school in the summer term & we found that plenty but the range at school this term has meant he’s not wanted to.

    As a child though (age 9 or so) I uses to do 4-5 a week and loved it. I was very sporty though and never felt it was too much. I was doing what I enjoyed!

  14. I agree with every single point you make. I am lucky to have four little ones so they entertain each other most of the time and there is no need for after-school clubs purely for the stimulation they would provide.

    There is definitely enough stimulation going on here if I judge it by the noise levels and amount of dens we get in the house! The one activity I have always taken them to is swimming, because it is a life skill and I want them all to be confident in the water.

  15. This is something we have talked about as we watched a particular friend send their kids off to activities every night of the week.

    Now in fairness they have grown up to be lovely girls but I do think that maybe they also missed out on some down time and some time just being a kid for kid’s sake. However if that down time is all spent in front of a screen of some sort rather than running around or being creative then maybe doing lots of clubs etc is a good idea.

    After all many children these days are not allowed to play out in the street with their friends and too some helicopter parents do not allow them free rein to get on with being a child out of their sight.

  16. We don’t do any at the mo because my 5yo has only just started sleeping (most nights) after three years of waking most nights. Even now she’s exhausted come 6pm and in bed by half past… she plays out with neighbours a few times a week which is lovely. She’s just started gymnastics for an hour on a Sat morning and loves it 🙂

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