I get it. I’ve been that mom. I wanted to desperately give my kids every opportunity to find their interests. When my daughter turned 3, she started gymnastics. Two years and $1,000 later, the poor kid couldn’t even do a cart-wheel. Okay, so gymnastics weren’t her forte. We went on to dance, cheerleading, and later soccer. We finally settled on recreational soccer for a few years. As she entered middle school, she became involved in several clubs at school. At the same time, our son joined cub scouts and played soccer as well. We had a pretty full schedule week after week. After a while, it started to feel like we were just over-scheduled, exhausted, and miserable. This year, my kids weren’t in any extra-curricular activities, and it was amazing. Here’s what happened.
1.) They found their own interests
My daughter has always been extremely artistic. With some down time, she explored face-painting and animation. She learns new techniques every day, and continues to grow. She even started a youtube channel for her tutorials, where she teaches viewers how to recreate her face-paints and animations. My son took a few online courses to create his own mods in Minecraft, and learned a little bit about coding in JAVA. When kids have free time, they will naturally find their own interests.
2.) I discovered value in their hobbies
I never imagined that a video game could be a productive hobby, but once I witnessed what my son was learning in his courses, I realized that it could be something educational as well. He’s looking into taking some courses next year for game design, and I completely support him. My daughter is considering doing face-painting for parties and events. I’m thrilled that she is turning her hobby into a possible business. You may discover that hobbies you thought were distracting can actually provide real value.
3.) They excelled
They are very motivated, because they’re doing something that they love. They push themselves more than I ever could. You won’t have to drag your kids to soccer, or beg them to practice. They do it on their own when they have found a hobby that they really enjoy, especially when they have the time to really focus on it.
4.) They had fun
Fun is the whole point, right? It’s more fun to do things that you actually enjoy. I’m so happy that both of my kids have discovered their own creative outlets. Extra-curricular activities are meant to be fun. Life’s too short to spend our time and money doing things that we don’t enjoy.
5.) We had more family time
Our weekends weren’t filled with games or competitions. We suddenly had a lot of family time. Our evenings were spent having dinner at home, instead of rushing to practice or meetings. We played rock band, or watched family shows before bed. We finally had free weekends, where we could hike, snowboard, or go bowling. It was refreshing, and we made a lot of memories. We were all just happier.
It’s okay to give our families a little down time, and spend that extra time reconnecting with each other. You may feel that your family isn’t being productive enough, but there is nothing more productive than reconnecting with each other after a busy week of work and school. Life is busy as it is, without us adding a million unnecessary activities into the mix. Let your kids have a little free time to explore their own interests, and find their true passions. Focus on the ones that they really love, and limit extra-curricular activities to a select few. Take the savings you would have spent on all of those activities, and invest it into their college fund. They’ll thank you for it later.