How do you decide what the right number of activities is at each age? We've avoided most organized sports for the boys until this year because we're cheap, Peter's been terrified of new people and situations, and moving/prepping to move meant we were in location limbo. Now that Peter's been in pre-k and grown up a bit, he's much more ready to join in, but we aren't sure how scheduled and activity-centered we want to get. I know I don't want to be running 6 directions with kids in three sports when they're 10, trying to get to soccer games on opposite sides of town one morning. I like the idea of cross-country skiing together as a family and having the kids do less-competitive-to-join high school sports that can still be fun. But if Peter needs practice with anything this summer, it's getting along with other kids and learning appropriate ways to interact with them and team sports would be a sensible way to do that. We'd also meet more kids from the neighborhood, which would balance out all his schoolmates living in far-flung places.
This winter/spring, we planned to put Peter in swimming and Leo (aka Monkey Boy) in gymnastics. I didn't get around to signing up for the January swimming session, then procrastinated with the March session until suddenly it was the second week of classes and I hadn't done anything, but the next session wasn't open for registration yet. Meanwhile, I got Leo into March-May parent-child gymnastics, which turns out to be more stress than fun for my kid who would really rather jump on the mats than do whatever the teacher asks.
In early April, I went to sign up for swimming and realized that of the seven sessions, only one was still open and it was the least convenient time. Okay, now I understand -- signups don't happen two weeks before class starts. Everyone in the know registers much earlier. Got it. I gave up on spring swimming and checked out the local community pools' summer classes. Registration was just starting for those and I got Peter into the spring sports sampler (one class each of soccer, floor hockey, basketball, and a repeat) and obsessively checked the swimming numbers until the non-resident-at-residents'-rate signups opened the next week. I have both boys in swimming lessons at the local pool in June for the same cost as just Peter taking it at the Y, with 10 lessons instead of 7. I'll be in the pool with Leo. Hopefully they'll both be comfortable enough in the water to enjoy swimming in the lake at the cabin over the 4th of July.
Now I'm looking at the later-summer options and debating the busy vs. fun at home approach. Swimming is a no-brainer because I feel that kids ought to know how to swim at least well enough to play in water over their head. In retrospect, Leo wasn't ready for organized gymnastics and I'll hold off another year before putting him in another class like that. I was surprised how serious most of the parents were about it -- I have no plans for a future in gymnastics for him, I just thought he'd like bouncing around and learning somersaults. He does like the balance beam and has caught onto Red Light, Green Light.
For summer, I'm thinking about putting Peter into a twice-weekly park program where he goes for 90 minutes and does crafts and games. I loved that when I was his age and everyone I mention it to has similar happy memories. It goes for 6 weeks, so 12 sessions for $17 and it's two blocks from our house. It almost seems wrong not to, at that price, even though we'd miss a week. There are a couple options for baseball. There's a 3-5 year old program with parents, once a week for 4 weeks, or a 4-5 year old program without parents, same time schedule. I've learned my lesson and won't put both boys into the 3-5 year old one. At 6, the only option is t-ball, with games and a longer season. Similarly, soccer runs Sept-Oct and at five he could either do a practices-only, 4 week thing, or 6-8 weeks with games and extra practices. Next year, the more-intense version is the only option. I'd like to put him in the 4-5 year old no-parents-but-no-games sessions of both baseball and soccer to see what he likes without committing to anything bigger. But that feels like we're starting the giant cog of sports-madness and we'll be sucked into Little League and soccer clubs forever. The seasons don't overlap during elementary school, so it's possible to do Little League April-July and soccer late August-October. Some of Peter's classmates have been doing indoor soccer all winter, but that's definitely past what I'm interested in.
We're also planning to have both boys in Vacation Bible School for one week in June and one week in August, every morning for a week. So if we sign up for everything, this is the schedule:
June 15-19: Bible School 9-12 Peter and Leo, Swimming 6:15-7 Peter and Leo
June 22-26: Swimming 6:15-7 Peter and Leo, Park program T/Th 10-11:30 Peter (Dan will be out of town all week)
June 29-July 2: Park program T/Th 10-11:30 Peter, Baseball Monday 5:15-6 Peter
July 6-10: Away at the cabin
July 13-17: Park program T/Th 10-11:30 Peter, Baseball Monday 5:15-6 Peter
July 20-24: Park program T/Th 10-11:30 Peter, Baseball Monday 5:15-6 Peter
July 27-31: Park program T/Th 10-11:30 Peter
August 3-7: Bible school 9-12 Peter and Leo
Then nothing until soccer starts on Saturdays Sept. 19th. I'd consider putting one or both of them in the last swimming session in early August if they really wanted to. School starts the day after Labor Day and Peter will be going to kindy all-day, every day and Leo has preschool at our parish 9-11:30 Tuesday/Thursday. I'm a little concerned that Leo will be bummed that Peter gets to do things that he doesn't. There's a once-a-week park program with parents for 3-4 year olds, but the one at our park isn't that convenient timing, and what's Peter supposed to do while the parent's at the park with Leo? The total cost for the park program, baseball, and soccer would be $63, which seems crazy-cheap to me. I'm not going to do any weeklong daycamps or anything and I think this would be enough scheduled activities to give us some routine without having somewhere we have to go every day.
Oh, experienced parents! How much is too much/too little?