Kids' Extracurriculars: How to Keep Your Children Active Without Going Nuts

By Jennifer Bingham Hull

With the start of school, the question arises: what activities should your child do?

Tennis, dance, piano, soccer – what should you choose? And how can you keep the kids active without overbooking them or driving yourself nuts?

Here are tips to help you choose extracurricular activities, sports and classes for your young child:

*Drill the coach. Where and when are games? What equipment is required? What’s the teacher’s philosophy? Some dance studios focus on grooming prima ballerinas. Others bring out the dancer in every child. Some let you observe while others do not. Find out what you’re getting into.

*Get the scoop. Families who’ve participated in the activity are your best source for the real story. Do parents yell at their kids during games? Does the coach? Do all the children play or just the stars?

*Observe a class. If children are jumping on the trampoline without supervision you’ll want to pass. Check the age of instructors and ask about their training. Are they chatting among themselves or interacting with students?

*Consider your kid. Some children can manage lots of activities. Others need more downtime. While many of her friends did after-school activities in kindergarten, my younger daughter came home and rested.

*Consider yourself. Jumping out of bed on Saturday morning to race to a hot soccer field is my idea of hell. So I head off soccer requests with glowing descriptions of activities with easier schedules. I’m not sure how much longer I can psych my girls out, but so far, so good.

*Use a soft sell. If you want your child to try something, don’t tell her that! My younger daughter had agreed to take piano – until my husband insisted on it. Then she refused. I had to persuade her all over again by describing piano’s benefits.

*Retain flexibility. Sometimes it’s nice not to be locked into a  schedule. This fall my girls will ride on Saturdays at a stable that lets you pay as you go. This will leave us open to attend the farmer’s market and local festivals, which have great events for kids.

*Set limits. One sport per season per child is a reasonable guideline. Schoolwork comes first. I sign up for less in the fall than in the spring so I can see how school is going before my kids take on many  extracurricular activities. At times you need to say no to something your child wants to do.

*Negotiate. Instructors eager to fill classes will sometimes comply with special requests regarding scheduling. Anyway, you’ll never know unless you ask.

*Join the fun. It can get tedious sitting in the stands. Some parents take lessons with their children. After spending a year in the dance waiting room, I’ve found it much more fun to ice skate with my girls. Recently, I even bought figure skates!

(c) 2010 Jennifer Bingham Hull. Reprint rights granted as long as the article is published in its entirety, including the resource box and its live links.

About the Author

Jennifer Bingham Hull is an award-winning author and mother of two. Her book, Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life, looks at life after the second child. To learn more, visit, where you can contact her to receive this Parenting Tips column and sign up for her free newsletter.

About Jennifer

A former journalist for The Wall Street Journal and Time, Jennifer is the award-winning author of Beyond One: Growing a Family and Getting a Life and pens the MidAge Mom blog.

She’s profiled exceptional women from the Middle East to Latin America. Widely published, her essays have been included in two anthologies.

Jennifer is also a frequent radio and TV guest. Full Bio

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In Beyond One, Jennifer chronicles her leap from one child to two, describing the enormous impact the second child has on a woman’s body, marriage, family life, friendships and work.

"Hull is the kind of woman many moms long to be friends with. . ." -The Cleveland Plain Dealer.


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