Six- to nine-year-olds
are developmentally industrious and hard working. At these ages,
they have plenty of energy to keep busy. They’re happy to play in
unstructured ways—building forts, climbing tree houses, playing
house or school, building with Legos, and participating in
spontaneous neighborhood games. They also enjoy the many organized
activities and lessons available: sports, arts and crafts,
collecting, dance, music, hands-on science, scouting, clubs, and
Parents, educators, and childcare professionals often worry that
children are enrolled in too many classes and activities. But during
the elementary years, kids really can’t be over-scheduled as long as
they’re doing what interests them and aren’t feeling pressured to
succeed at everything. These are the times when they develop new
skills and discover what interests them, sometimes taking part in
four or more activities a week. Both active play and organized
programs offer kids a chance to try out different experiences, find
out what works, and be with friends.
Classes, activities, and lessons (some with low or no fees required)
are offered through schools, city and county recreation centers,
religious organizations, individuals, profit and non-profit groups.
Many kids go to these programs directly from school. Parents who
work outside the home still can make activities available to their
child by car- pooling, rearranging their schedules, enrolling him in
evening or weekend classes, or choosing an afterschool day care
program that includes extra activities.
As parents choose from the wealth of recreational possibilities,
they have to consider their child’s interests (spontaneous or
otherwise), their own ability to pay for classes and arrange
transportation, and the quality of individual programs. They should
ask some of these questions: will their child have friends in the
class? Is practice required? Are parents signing him up for their
own convenience? Will the class be too rigid or too unstructured?
Will a sports activity reinforce competition or teach sportsmanship?
Will an art class enhance or stifle creativity? How often will the
class meet? Will the program interfere with schoolwork, a reasonable
bedtime, or a sibling’s schedule? And finally, will participating in
the activity allow him time to relax and play at home?
Be sure the activities your child participates in are not just ones
you think he should try. You’ll know when the initiative is his
because he’ll ask again and again if you’ve signed him up for a
special program. One mother, after talking to a basketball coach,
decided her son should play, so she pressured him to try. He lasted
through on1 a few practices before saying he wanted to quit.
If your child does lose interest in a program, evaluate the
situation. Is the instructor or coach too harsh? The class too
demanding? Are you putting too much pressure on your child? Is he
having problems with another child in the class? At times, an
activity may just not be right. One girl started with gymnastics,
lost interest, and switched to soccer. While playing on the team,
she also went to a tennis clinic with a friend and ended up loving
and seriously playing the game for years.
It’s possible that your child wants to quit an activity because he
feels inferior as he compares his skills to those of other kids. The
coach or leader may be able to help him feel more competent, or your
child simply may decide to drop out and try another activity. This
is fine as long as he won’t let his team down—if they are counting
on him, urge him to finish out the season before moving on. Quitting
activities and starting new ones are very common during the
elementary school years as children discover lots of inviting
opportunities. Your child’s intense interest in trying new things
will disappear by the time he’s an adolescent, so help him take the
time now to start building his identity and learning about his
interests, abilities, and strengths.