When my older children were small, I avoided sending them to hugim (extracurricular activities). Part of it was expense, and part was that I did not want to have to wake up the baby or toddler when it was time to do dropoff or pickup. They weren’t completely deprived—I often arranged something at home or close enough for them to get there on their own.
I’ve been more “generous” with my younger two. My 10-year-old takes music lessons, which requires chauffeuring until he gets big enough to shlep his instrument himself. He rides the bus to a second class. I am thinking that this is a lot, especially since he ends school at 2:30 three days a week. My 7-year-old is in two classes that each meet weekly. They are walking distance so any of my older kids can bring her.
Another mother, whose son also takes music, said the more hugim the better—her son thrives on all the activity and gets together with friends on his one free day. But he’s in 10th grade. Some 5-year-olds are in 4 hugim a week.
Every child is different, but I think most kids are better off with fewer hugim. They need time to read, play and just “hang out.” I love to see the elaborate games my kids come up with when they have a quiet afternoon together. But I sense that many parents today aren’t comfortable with unscheduled time for their kids. Kids are often in school or daycare until 4 PM, and they get hugim there.
Unstructured time with kids means just that, and entertaining them is not required. Sure they may act bored at first, but left to their own devices they will usually find something to do.
Kids will grow up just fine, without extra-curricular activities. Kids can learn and create at home, as long as you limit “screen time” and provide toys, books, and simple crafts. Add supervision and a reasonable amount of interaction—sometimes much more, of course. If a child is really talented at something there is still time for it when kids are older.
Americans complain about kids being over-scheduled, but it seems to be happening here too. And things will only get worse, with the plan to make all 3-5-year-olds get free “education” until 4 PM.
Thanks to @Shiraabel for stimulating the Facebook discussion on the topic.