One of the most chaotic parts of our family lives, besides what to cook for dinner, is managing our children's after-school and weekend activities.
It is very difficult to balance the desire for our children to explore activities and sports they may enjoy, along with their academics and downtime.
In an ideal world, all of our kids sports and activities could be held at the same time and in the same place, kind of like a carnival of after-school fun.
Parents could drop off all their children in one place at their assigned area and pick them up at the same time. Sounds wonderful huh?
Unfortunately we don't live in an ideal world, and parents are left with nagging questions such as, "How can I get my kids to their piano lessons and soccer practices at the same time?" or "Which sports should my kids participate in?" or "Should we allow our kids to participate in more than one sport at a time?"
These questions have plagued me as well, as I step through the minefield of managing my own two sons' after-school activities and sports practices.
I posed these questions to several busy moms and coaches last weekend to get their takes on balancing kids sports and other activities.
Kendra Dougherty, a busy mother of four, "The days of three-sport children are over with the amount of practices involved and the distances we have to travel to get them there.
"Sports, even at the earliest levels, are becoming more and more competitive. So in my opinion, kids need to choose one or two sports and be good at them," she said.
Dougherty said when her kids decide which sports and activities they want to participate in, "I make sure that they are truly committed to it and practice,"
Ray Abbot, a Hopkinton lacrosse coach and father of two, "My kids participate in a wide variety of sports and they love it. I think it is important for young children to try many different sports, as it helps build their agility and confidence.
"As my kids get older, they will eventually have to choose which sport they want to focus on, but for now, we are able to manage their practices and schedules," Abbot said.
John Smith, owner and director of John Smith Soccer Acadamy and a former professional athlete, "I have been coaching youth soccer players and coaches for the past 40 years and I believe that it is important to involve children in sports at an early age.
"Early exposure to sports helps kids develop the skills and agility they will need to move forward into other sports. When kids turn 10 or 11, they need to specify which sport they enjoy and want to pursue. This way, they can tailor their practices and schedule to what they need to be successful in high school or in college," Smith said.
I interviewed several other busy parents and gathered helpful tips and suggestions on how they manage their own kids' busy schedules. Here are some great tips:
Activity Scheduling Tips
1. Limit the number of activities that each child can do for any given season. Even if your child thinks it would be fun to try travel soccer, Little League All-Stars, the debate team and the chess club, do yourself and her or him a favor and say NO!
2. Try not to sign up for activities where the kids' schedules completely overlap. As long as the start and end times are the same, parents can drop their kids off and pick them up as needed. Ask a parent to stay with a child until you arrive if times vary.
3. Prioritize where conflicts might occur. If your child signs up for more than one activity that could lead to a scheduling conflict, ask your child to pick which activity will always come first. Communicate with the coach or instructor of the second-choice activity.
1. Load all of the scheduling practices and activities into your calendar. Make sure that you don't rely on printed flyers and handouts. Have a central calendar for the entire family to see.
2. Set up plastic bins for each sport or activity. After uniforms are washed, return them right to the bin.
** The most important tip: Remember that after-school sports and activities are supposed to enhance your child's life, not cause stress for you and the rest of your family!