After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

Our children spend at least six hours every day in school. We expect them to sit down in a classroom from an early age and learn. And once the school day finishes, the clubs begin.

Why do we do it?

To put it simply, it’s about getting their bums off seats. Sports activities allow our children to let off steam and learn new skills in a safe, structured environment. Social groups, like the Scout movement, encourage independence and ingenuity outside the home.

How much is too much?

Recently, I realised that after-school clubs were starting to dominate our lives. Like a lot families, we’d started off with just one activity per child each week. But this had started to creep up, until we only had Mondays and Fridays free each week. The balance felt wrong.

A quick straw poll amongst my friends told me that we all feel the same. Our older children are doing 2-3 activities per week, our youngest 1-2.

Is that too much? Maybe not if your children are doing their activities at the same time, in the same place. But what if they’re all in different places, at different times? That could mean 4 or 5 different seperate activities to get to each week. It’s a lot of rushing about, not to mention expensive.

Is that ok?

The answer is different for everyone.

For our family, three afternoons full of activities and clubs were too much. We were neglecting some of the other important things in life: meals eaten at the same table, time to read together and complete homework. Calm bedtimes. And most important of all: the chance to relax and just be.

After school clubs: what's your magic number?

How to do you find a balance?

First, prioritise your children’s activities.

Do they really love them all, or is there a sense of obligation? It’s good to teach your children commitment, but equally it’s also nice to allow them room to breathe. Is there one activity where everyone always drags their heels, but you feel you ought to do? Talk about it and reach a compromise.

For us, that was swimming. It’s an important life skill that they need, but they never want to go. We now go on a Sunday morning. I’ve always fought against clubs at weekends, but we’ve all agreed this won’t be forever. Once they’ve learned to swim confidently, they can choose to stop if they like. It eats into the weekend, but we all go together and combine it with a nice lunch in town. They’re learning, but we’re also getting to spend time together as a family – much better than rushed afternoons at the pool.

Remember that clubs get more serious as time goes on

Lots of activities require more commitment from your child as they get older. Football, martial arts and dance often start small, but become full-scale commitments over time. If your child has a passion for something, encourage them, but remember, that other things may have to fall by the wayside.

After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

Team up with other parents

If your children desperately wants to do something, but you can’t make it work with your schedule, team up with other parents. Share lifts, or take it turns to look after younger siblings. If you need to keep costs down, how about meeting up for more informal activities with friends? Football or a scavenger hunt in the park.

Don’t worry about keeping up with the neighbours

Try not to be influenced by what so-and-so’s child is doing. Some families relish being busy all the time, others don’t. Do what works for you as a family, and no one else. If this means teaching your children to swim yourself at weekends, or restricting sports to a casual kick about in the park, then so be it.

Remember that down-time is an important activity in its own right

Never forget that. We expect a lot from our children. It’s essential that they have some time to themselves too. Time to just drift and do exactly what they want (even if that’s nothing). We shouldn’t be micro-managing every aspect of our children’s lives. They have the rest of their lives to be weighed down by schedules and commitments. Give them opportunities, but also give them the precious gift of freedom!

 So, what’s your magic number? I’d love to hear how you make it work. 


6 thoughts on “After school clubs – what’s your magic number?

  1. Kim Carberry

    My youngest does 2 after school clubs. Choir on Monday for 45 minutes and Art club on a Wednesday for an hour….She did want to add gymnastics and football but I have said no. She isn’t really interested in them and only wants to do them because her friends do.
    Two a week works for us. They are pretty easy/fun clubs so she enjoys them x

    1. marmaladepie Post author

      Well done for being firm! It’s such a commitment for them they’ve go to really want to do it

  2. Jennifer

    I’ve always been a bit against after school clubs, because I was very over scheduled as a child (although to be fair it was mainly my own choice because I kept signing up for things at secondary school!). Like you we do swimming once a week, which they usually enjoy, sometimes moan about, but they need to learn. My son started piano lessons once a week about a year ago, and he does complain about it, but he enjoys it when he’s playing. The teacher comes to our house which is a big help as I don’t need to drag the youngest one out. They’ve both expressed an interest in doing more clubs in September though so I might let them choose another one each. The trouble is that our school is quite far from our house, so if only one is doing a club I need to hang around with the other one, a bit of a pain. I love the days when we don’t have anything on, it’s so much more relaxed.

    1. marmaladepie Post author

      That’s really interesting Jennifer that you remember doing too much. I think children definitely need/love down time just as much as we do – especially when school is so intense! Piano at home is a great idea. My son has his lessons at school which means it’s one less thing to do!

  3. Rebekah

    We have cut down to 3 clubs for the eldest, football (dad coaches so me and small stay at home) choir and swimming. Small only has dance and it’s straight after school and I collect on my way home from work, she has expressed and interest in swimming so am trying to coordinate both girls doing that at the same time. Even that feels a lot and I much prefer the days we don’t have to be anywhere after school and all sit and eat and talk together.

    1. marmaladepie Post author

      That’s really interesting Becky – I agree that the days when we do nothing are bliss. It’s really important to just sit round the table and talk – just as important as learning new things! x


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