REAL TALK with Red Stick Moms: Structured Activities for Young Kids

We are excited to announce the start of a new series: REAL TALK with Red Stick Moms. In this series, we are hoping to tackle some topics that are on our minds and hearts as we raise our children and navigate the everyday. This is for the day-to-day life stuff… the things we think on a lot but don’t always have the space to share about. We are hoping to get the conversation started and then open up the discussion to YOU! So read our thoughts, share your own, and join us on this crazy, uncertain, but amazing road of motherhood.

REAL

Today’s Real Talk topic is on structured activities for kids, especially younger kids under the age of 8. As a society, it feels like there are SO many options for our kids for “things to do” at younger and younger ages. Baby activity classes, team sports for 3 and 4 year olds, art/music/language classes for preschoolers. We know all these things can be good, but is there too much of a good thing? Three of our team members are chatting today to get the discussion going!

Q: As a mom in the greater Baton Rouge community, do you feel there is a pressure for your young child to be enrolled in organized/structured activities?

Jada: Yes and no! I see moms putting their children in activities as young as 6 months,  and my thought is “why?!” To each his own, but I think when children are younger, structured activies serve as much of a socialization activity for mom as they do for babies. For instance,  I don’t think my child is any smarter for having attended a story time class at one year old, than she would be from she and I singing in the car or reading together at home.

Jennifer: We are lucky to have so many options in our area to have a wide array of extra curricular activities for even the youngest of children to participate in. Since children are engaging in these activities at such young ages, I do feel some pressure to enroll my children despite the burden it places on our families schedule. Not participating in such activities will place my kids at a disadvantage as they enter school.

Sara: When I first became a mom, I was overwhelmed with all the classes and activities out there! Like all moms, I want the best for my children, and was tempted to try each thing that promised great benefits for my baby. But then, there are these things called a budget and a schedule. Oddly enough, the restrictions of a budget and schedule takes away the pressure to say “yes” to every good thing that comes along.

Q: Have you personally taken your young child to a class/activity? What were the pros and cons?

Jada: Yes! I love the idea of structured play dates like music class, dance, story time,  gym or play groups, but do I think my toddler “needs” it to be a better adjusted child -no! Bottom line, I support that they are fun activities to put on the social calendar.

Jennifer: At a very young age, we enrolled my daughter in a mom-n-tot gym class, she was far too young and our entire family ended up burnt out on such activities. As she grew a bit, we tried again with dance classes and through  these classes she’s improved her coordination, social and listening skills. I never force her to re-enroll but always give her the choice when the time comes. Also, taking on the financial burden of some activities can be immense, so that can definitely be a factor.

Sara: Yes. Both my girls took Music Together classes as toddlers. It was a positive experience for all three of us. The classes got me out of the house, and I made some great mom friends. My children developed sweet relationships with their teachers and had the opportunity to be around other children. It was a non-performance based class, so they were free to move and play, as toddlers should. We’ve since outgrown the class, and both girls (7 and 4) now take ballet. My seven year old is also in piano and 4-H for the first time this year, and she is really enjoying it.

Q: Do you fear your child will get “behind” if you don’t get them started with an activity at a young age? Where do you think this fear comes from?

Jada: As parents, part of our job is to cultivate our child’s intelligence, and my belief is learning should start in the home. Enrichment activities are fun, but I try to avoid putting too much pressure on my daughter to always be in an activity. Sometimes the best learning happens around the kitchen table, or in the car, and I think their is beauty in simplistic learning. Our society has lost itself in a constant need to have a full calendar in order to feel as though we are progressing forward. As a family, our goal is to choose simplicity (even when it means saying no to activities that may not be age appropriate even though other kids of the same age are doing them). Each child learns differently, and what’s appropriate for my child may not be for another child of the same age.

Jennifer: Yes, structured actives provides life lessons that I know will only help children as they enter school. Structured activities makes our children more worldly and knowledgeable, teaches them with important life skills, and often provides physical activity. Throughout my life, I have participated in several structured activities which have helped me make connections that have advanced me in my career and personal development. I can only hope that participation in organized activities will do the same for my children.

Sara: For some, it may be giving their child an edge over the competition, or giving them a way to define their uniqueness, or preparing them for school and life, but it all stems from the same place: wanting the very best for our children. I was not immune to the fear, but I’ve since learned that this fear is misguided. Children need unstructured time to develop creativity and problem solving skills. Structured activity can have many positive benefits, but the benefits of simple play time is just as great.

Thanks so  much to Jada, Jennifer, and Sara for getting the conversation started! Join in the discussion on our Facebook page, our Instagram account, or right here in the comments and let us know what YOU think.

Angela is a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom to 4 children. She and her husband, Josh, were born and raised in Louisiana and love raising their kids around family and friends. They love exploring the outdoors, traveling, and playing sports. Angela loves to encourage other homeschooling moms and loves to advocate for getting kids off screens and outside.

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