Friday 14 December 2018

Dear David Coleman: Our family was run ragged with extra-curricular activities, so we decided to stop. Will our children lose out?

Cycling with kids
Cycling with kids

Question:The last few years were so hectic getting our children to different places, trying to fit food, homework, playdates, plus their after-school activities into the afternoons. This year we are saving money from all those outside school activities and just going swimming. I'm worried, though, that they miss out on fun and friendships. Do you think this is a good decision? /b>

AThere is no doubt that children benefit from participation in sport and physical activity. It is also nice to be able to support them in other activities like music or drama, where they show interest. However, I think your email highlights the physical and emotional cost that such extra-curricular activities can incur.

There is no hard-and-fast rule about whether to schedule in extra-curricular activities or not.

Research shows that those children who have lots of extra-curricular activities run the risk of not having any unstructured free play time, and those with too little may miss out on opportunities for more diverse stimulation.

Perhaps the best thing for your family may be to continue as you are, as an experiment, until Christmas. Then plan a family meeting where you can explore the positives (eg less hectic life, saved money for occasional family outings) and the negatives (eg missing friends or specific activities) such that you can come to a family decision about continuing without other activities, or reinstating some.

It'll be interesting to see if slowing down feels better.

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