Too much of a good thing

So I wrote this week’s Standard article as a spin off from last week’s blog post about children playing sports. (In case you’re wondering, I might have changed some names to protect the innocent, aka my son. Hey, you never know who is going to read it and hate you through him.)

Shortly after writing the article, I read this post by Vanessa over at I Never Grew Up. She voices the concern we all face as mothers: how much is too much? Since then I’ve been thinking of ways to combat this whole Must Do Extracurricular Activities mentality, and earlier this week I came up with something that I think might work for us.

I’ve decided that if we want our kids to learn baseball and soccer and tennis and basketball and singing and dance and yoga, we need to play with them. As a family. Jason and I are athletic (okay, maybe just Jason) and talented (ahem), why shouldn’t we be the ones to teach them? Why should we depend on little league and camps and lessons for everything when we’ve both got the time and energy (again, mostly Jason) to do it ourselves?

The thing is, by teaching your kids to play sports in your own backyard, you accomplish three things. First, you save money. Second, you learn to play together and have fun as a family. And third, no one is going to give your kids the time and attention they need like you will. Besides, it will mean more to them that you were the one to teach them. What kid doesn’t want that kind of attention from their folks?

To solidify this idea in my mind, I received an awesome email today from a dad who’s done just that. In response to my article, he emailed to tell me that since his kids were little, he’s organized family pickup baseball games at their local park–parents included. They’ve never depended on organized athletics to teach their kids sports, and their family has been richly blessed because of it.

His email not only impressed me, it reminded me that no one can teach them to have fun and play sports better than I can. Probably because I am the Fun Queen of the Universe. When I’m not yelling. You get the point.


  1. My husband started playing baseball with our son (using a tennis ball and racket) a few weeks ago. He loved it so much we decided to sign him up for the city sports thing. For his age, they have a “smart start” program. It’s twice a week for a month and a parent goes with the child. They practice together, but the kids still get to play with a team some of the time.

    This is our very first venture into sports of any kind, and my son in 5 1/2. We decided to have the almost 4-year-old wait another year. He was only interested because his brother was doing it, anyway. I’m not sure what we’ll do in years to come. Depends on how much they want to do, I suppose.

    But I love this idea, of simply TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN YOURSELVES. Novel, really,. ;o)

  2. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off this past month, driving 3 kids to 14 different activities between softball, baseball, soccer, tumbling, karate, singing and piano, and I am SPENT! And broke.

    I agree, I’m going start teaching my kids at home.
    (Except that’s why I started KJ in piano lessons with my neighbor because I tried teaching her and it just didn’t work)

  3. We too are early in the sports stuff. As a girl of only sisters, and now a mom of only boys, it’s a foreign world. Our oldest little dude has played one season of mostly-dandelion-picking and can’t-wait-for-treats soccer. We had a friend give us the book UNTIL IT HURTS by Mark Hyman…all about the obsession of youth sports and how it harms kids. Pretty interesting read, and will only shore you up in your at-home plan. :O) Adults are crazy! Kids just wanna have fun!

  4. Perfect perfect perfect advice…see I put it three times bc I love it so much 🙂 No really I don’t know why this isn’t just “common sense” to me it should be right? My girls love when we do yoga together, we buy a new manual, teach ourselves and have a blast. Fabulous!

  5. Kerstin says:

    I love this idea, Annie!

  6. Kiersten says:

    I would love to do that with my kids, even though I’m not very “sporty” I still think it would be a great opportunity to teach them and spend time with them. Really great idea 🙂

  7. I don’t know. I see what you are him are saying and I definitely would want to do that. But I think there can be a happy medium. Just because I think there is an experience in organized sports that can’t be duplicated with time with the family.

    That’s my two cents.

  8. I have mixed feelings about this. We try to keep balance. Our kids have karate all year long. then usually one or two seasonal sports that don’t overlap. Being that our kids our 12 and 14 they have well exceeded the “backyard” education we could provide them. But I also want them to be kids and have fun. I have honestly found that they have plenty of free time to hang out with friends, have family nights with us, and sometimes just sit down and read a good book. It is me that is running around ragged.

  9. I couldn’t agree more.
    I’m gonna post a link to this on my blog!

  10. You’re very wise, Annie. And I think it goes back to that same old question of balance. Learning the fundamentals of a sport or a musical instrument from a loving parent is awesome. And learning how to be accountable to another adult and play in a cooperative setting is also important. Of course, the third element is that kids also just need to play, period. Unstructured, grownup-free imagination time.

    You will revisit this a thousand times in the years you spend raising your kids. And it’s all right if your next epiphany says, “time to involve the kids in some extra-curriculars”.

    Balance, baby. It’s all about balance.

  11. We kind of came to that same conclusion. We’re trying to keep our involvement in extracurriculars minimal, especially during the school year, and save the time and money for more family recreation like camping, biking, hiking, etc.– stuff we can all do together. Another vote for balance.

  12. People start way too early and do way, WAY too much. I like introducing different sports to my older boys, and then they can choose which ones to continue with. They both disliked soccer and baseball, so now we are trying swimming. We have rules, one sport at a time. Once they have some skills, they enjoy playing at home.

    On a side note, once you add the next baby, I think you will find it more difficult to also try teaching your children sports and talents on top of everything else. Not to be a bummer, but I’m going from experience.

  13. As a homeschooling Mom, I have to agree with you. I can’t afford lessons in all the sports they’d do in P.E. in public school, so it’s me out there teaching them how to swing a tennis racket & how to kick a soccer ball. They are only 1, 4, & 8 right now so I imagine that will change to some degree as they get older. They will hopefully find something they are really good at & enjoy & we will get professionals to help them with that.

  14. I’m a little late in the game, but will chime in anyway. 🙂 I love this idea! Right now, since my girls are only 5 and 2, they’re not involved in many organized sports/activities – maybe a swimming lesson here, or itty bitty gymnastics there, but most of our activity is done in the yard. We run around with the soccer ball, or bounce the basketball at the uncles’ homes – mostly for exercise – but I never realized that we are actually teaching them at the same time. Obviously, I’m not qualified to coach them to the point of playing varsity (heck, junior varsity either!), but at that time, I can look at options. I think your idea is key to finding balance within the family, and keeping your mind as the mom. Nice post!

  15. byuemba2010 says:

    This makes me feel better for not having my girls in anything. I think I’ll sign then up for things that will save their lives like swimming lessons and call my job done! Over scheduled kids lead to stressed out moms, cranky kids. I think one thing at a time is how we’ll do it over here!

    And ok lady….. I so need me an Annie fix! Can I really wait till CBC? I hope so! I also wanted to open up my house to you. I am a mile or so away from all the fun that weekend and you are more then welcomed to crash at my house in our super secluded guest “retreat” down stairs. Private room and bath just for you! I’d hate for your sweet preggo self to have to shleep back and forth! Let me know if you’re up for it so I can start buying mints for your pillow!