Activities for Kids: yay or nay?


S goes to nursery, four days a week. They do all sorts of everything at nursery, every activity you could imagine. They do themed weeks like Natural Materials Week or Senses Week. They have people come in to do singing and dancing and football and bring in animals for the children to see. She paints and draws and does sensory play. One day last term, they put a massive sheet on the floor and had the children experience full body painting.

I feel that S is definitely living a well-rounded life for those four days each week. She does things I definitely never did, in or out of school or nursery. And she has oh, so much fun.

I still wonder though, whether she should be doing “activities” in her spare time. Or rather, I wonder at what time I should start to enrol her in such things.


When I was a child, I can remember having ballet lessons, swimming lessons, piano lessons. I attended Brownies. For a while we all went to Sunday school. My parents were determined that we should all be Well Rounded. The problem was, I hated ballet – I was the fat kid (in my head, at least). I hated swimming lessons and was scared of the water. Once I’d learned to swim, I didn’t understand why they then wanted me to jump in at the deep end in a pair of pyjamas. I enjoyed my piano lessons with my teacher, but she quit and I didn’t like the new teacher.

I was eventually allowed to give up the ballet lessons, possibly because my parents got divorced and my mother couldn’t justify the expense as well as the weekly tantrums and dragging that took place. The swimming lessons stopped when the people at the pool kept making me repeat classes because I refused to jump in, and it got embarrassing for me to be the oldest kid in my class. I was allowed to give up the piano, but only because I’d already taken up the clarinet. Clarinet lessons had a double bonus, as I also joined a wind band that met on Saturday mornings, thus filling the hole left by ballet lessons. At times, I hated all of it. But I did probably enjoy it too. I’m glad I learned to swim; I look back with fondness at my ballet performance on the stage of the local City Hall. The piano faded into insignificance, but I kept up with the clarinet until I was 16 and passed several exams without once making a concerted effort. It had its moments of being okay-ish; I’m glad I learned it, if only because I am now able to read music, and still have the muscle memory to be able to belt out a (squeaky) rendition of Yankee Doodle.


I’ve just finished reading the section of Far From The Tree about child prodigies. I am in no way suggesting my child is any sort of a prodigy (though obviously, she is all shades of awesome and better than everyone else’s child, and so on and so forth). Unsurprisingly, when a child shows amazing abilities at a very young age, there is an element of pushy parenting. You can’t coach a child into becoming a prodigy, but once that talent is recognised, many parents can’t help themselves – they post videos on Facebook or YouTube; they seek out fame and fortune for their child, when it’s not necessarily what their child wants, or what would be best for them. Like I said, S is not a prodigy – she’s just a happy two year old. Reading that chapter of the book though, made me very wary of being a pushy parent in any way.

I know people whose children the same age as S go to all manner of extra-curricular lessons. I’m not sure if I should be sending my daughter to these things too.

I think what worries me the most is, even when a child really enjoys an activity 80 per cent of the time, there are still those days when they would rather go here or do that, they just don’t want to get out of bed and go to the thing you know they’ll enjoy once they’re there. And as a parent, once you’ve paid for a term of lessons, in whatever activity your offspring has chosen, you don’t want to be wasting your money. I don’t think I have it in me to try and force S to go to something if she comes out with the old faithful, “but I don’t like it!” And since I know that even the most dedicated child has those days, I’m not sure I should sign her up for any of it in the first place.


I don’t want to push my child into things in which she has little interest. My older sister was very skinny and delicate and loved to be pretty and wear pretty things. She enjoyed her ballet classes and did well in her grades. I wanted to be like my older sister when I was four, but quickly realised I was the fat, graceless elephant wearing the leotard that was just a little too tight, not quite pulling off the dances. Out of place. Being at ballet lessons probably did me more harm than good, but I know both of my parents’ hearts were in the right place when they signed me up for the classes. I probably even begged them to let me join in when my older sister began them.

So I suppose there are two things of which I am unsure: One, when do you sign your kids up for this stuff, and Two, should I even bother with it?

This is something I am toying with a lot at the moment.


Do your children do any activities? Did you find something fun or unusual for them to do?

What do you do on the days they just don’t fancy going?

Do you ever feel like a pushy parent?

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Kim Carberry · 11/11/2014 at 20:10

My girls don’t do any out of school activities….I don’t think they are missing out on anything…..By the time they get in from school, had a play, had tea and done any homework it’s nearly time for bed. As for the weekends we like to do things in the house or go for days out….We don’t have to time for them.
My friends daughter does dance classes 3 times a week, St John ambulance and swimming…..My friend said it’s great in the summer but a nightmare this time of year when you just want to stay in the house on an evening.

Emma T · 11/11/2014 at 22:19

I’m the same. N is at nursery 5 days a week – he does french there (well, when he decides to join in), they did do a bit of football, they do some music, cooking, drama, and I’ve heard they might be starting tennis (which I’d love him to be good at then I’d have someone to play tennis with).

Outside of nursery, he does swimming lessons on a Saturday – for safety and to teach him an essential, in the hope that by the time school starts, he’ll be able to swim. I know if we didn’t have lessons, I wouldn’t take him, then he wouldn’t learn until age 7ish at school.

But other children do dance classes, some in his swim class do little kickers in the morning (N would never cope with 2 in one day) and other things. If I didn’t work full time, I’d probably take him to a music class that we gave up when I started work as he loved it, but I’ll probably start him once he starts school if he’s not too tired.

Like you I did ballet (my choice, up til 6th form when I had no choice but to give up), modern dance, brownies, clarinet, piano and when older saxophone. Then of course, orchestras, wind band, Saturday music school and then in school, every sport I could grab, including squash outside of school. I loved it all, but I was 7/8+ when I started doing everything possible.

I think it has to be led by the child (apart from swimming as that’s essential in my eyes), but it is hard to know. I think school’s definitely the age to start if they want, as they’ll lose the variety from nursery.

Sadie · 12/11/2014 at 09:27

My boy (nearly 4) does dancing on a friday after nursery but that is because he loves it and it helps his confidence not that he has any particular talent for it. I don’t do anything with my daughter who is nearly 2. I sometimes wish they were doing more activities like their friends such as swimming, football, etc but I work so much its hard to schedule in and its expensive, also I thing they can do too much, when we have a really busy week they are exhausted and if they did lots of activities that would be every week. I like the fact that I can actually spend time WITH them rather than just watching them do things or taking them to things. If they weren’t in nursery 4 days I may feel differently but they are getting exposed to lots of things and seeing lots of children so what they need most is Mummy and family time plenty of time for activities when they are teenagers and don’t like me x x x

Sarah MumofThree World · 13/11/2014 at 12:09

I think I’m the queen of extracurricular activities! All of my kids play an instrument (in school), both boys do rugby and Scouts and my younger son also does football. My daughter does four dance lessons a week – all different styles. All of the kids did swimming lessons until the end (level 7). BUT they didn’t start until they were a bit older – the swimming lessons were at 3 and the other things were picked up gradually between 4 and 7. My eldest didn’t start rugby until he was 10.
These activities were all activities that they asked to do themselves and which they enjoy going to every week. If they didn’t, I wouldn’t push them and I wouldn’t waste my money! As it is, I’m happy they do them as it helps make them more well-rounded – even if I do spend my whole life driving them places.
I genuinely think at 2 your daughter doesn’t need to do outside activities – especially with nursery giving her so much. My daughter started ballet at 6 and tap at 7. She is better than all the kids in her class who started at 3!

    Naomi · 14/11/2014 at 07:32

    My eldest did swimming and gym from 18m+, my second child just did gym, my third does swimming with me (my favourite time of the week). I agree that swimming is an essential skill so all three of mine go now, and my eldest asked to learn to play the piano so we have a teacher come to the house. I pulled her out of gymnastics because it was getting too competitive and she was only 6! My take is that if they want to do a club or activity, and we can afford it, they can give it a go. I resented being forced to do dance and piano lessons, so I gave up very quickly, I don’t want that for my kids.

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