Extra Extra(curriculars)

Growing up in a small town, our options for extracurricular activities was limited. For sports, we had swimming, soccer, hockey, karate, and t-ball/baseball, and for arts we were essentially limited to piano lessons. While the choices were few, the turnout was always amazing and generally successful.

For me, in the spring it was t-ball when I was the youngest, which transitioned over to soccer, plus piano lessons until I was about 14. Swimming lessons in the summer were a must until I was old enough to tread water for 2 minutes and go to the pool unsupervised.

Flash waaaaay forward to the present, and we now live in a decent-sized city with so many options, it’s almost overwhelming. From dance to football, horseback riding to hockey, the choices are endless when it comes to picking an extracurricular activity for your kids to take part in.

Aside from perhaps learning how to swim, I’m a firm believer that kids shouldn’t be forced into an extracurricular they don’t want to do. Don’t get me wrong – this doesn’t mean I don’t think they should do nothing at all. Kids should have the opportunity to at least try as many things as they want to see if they like it before diving in head first. A lot of activities are EXPENSIVE, and it’s the worst feeling ever when you invest in gear and uniforms or costumes only to discover that your kid shows little interest a month in.

It’s easy to want to throw your kids into every activity your schedule will allow, especially when you start to get nostalgic about your own passions growing up. (Or even your current ones, for that matter.) But I beg to ask: Is throwing a child into every activity their schedule allow a good thing to do? I often wonder how many of these activities kids actually enjoy doing versus what they’re doing because their parents want them to do something, you know what I mean? Is little Suzy in figure skating because she saw Tessa Virtue at the Olympics and fell in love with the twirling and wants to be like her, or is it because her mom competed a few times growing up and wants to live vicariously through her, even though Suzy doesn’t show much interest?

I’m totally not trying to judge those moms either. I had my oldest try t-ball and my youngest try soccer, but neither of them really showed any passion for what they were taking part in. I ultimately decided to just observe what they like doing while at home and direct that energy into a suitable after school activity. For my oldest the choice was clearly dance, and my youngest now lives for “ninja school.” (Think American Ninja Warrior!)

I’m also a firm believer in choices – and that’s not necessarily letting them choose to do everything. Kids, especially when they’re young, burn out SO fast. Having them in activities three or four days a week can be exhausting, so choosing something that only consumes one or two days a week is something I strongly believe in.

For example, currently in our house each of my daughters is in one extracurricular per week. Sometimes they’re in two each when we do swimming lessons (a must until they can stay afloat on their own), but for us, one activity is enough. Last summer, when my oldest found out her best friend was going to take up gymnastics instead of dance, she asked if she could do gymnastics as well. Now, she LOVES dance, but if she wanted to switch to gymnastics I would’ve let her. However, knowing how much she loves dance, I told her that she could do gymnastics, but it meant she wouldn’t be able to do dance anymore. She thought about it briefly, but opted to stick with what she knows she loves.

I know it might make me sound like a bit of a party pooper, not letting my kids do everything they want to, but I know that we’d slowly become overwhelmed and exhausted by running all over town to every activity. There are plenty of families who do a variety of different activities during the week, and sometimes they have more kids than we do, so I have to give them major kudos on managing it. At the same time though, are you afraid of burning out? What will do you if/when it happens?

So let’s discuss, friends! What kind of rules/regulations do you have when it comes to your child(ren)’s activities? (Of if you’re not there yet, what do you envision?) I’m genuinely curious!

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Kindie Survival 101: Bits & Pieces

School starts in just over a week here in Canada, and I hope you enjoyed this series that I’ve whipped together for you. There were a lot of points that weren’t covered, so I thought I’d put those thoughts here to cover all the random bits.

Clothing

You know that saying, “Dress for success”? While you may already be knee-deep in back to school shopping it’s important to do the same when you send your child off to school.  At kindergarten age, many clothing options are still fairly child-friendly and feature snaps instead of buttons, Velcro instead of laces, etc. It’s important to remember that while your child’s teacher can help out when they can with certain things, it’s hard for them to help out with shoes, coats, etc. If your child hasn’t figured out how to tie their shoes yet, consider velcro or slip-on ones.

Another brilliant thing that our teacher had us parents do was to keep a full spare change of clothes in our child’s locker for any accidents that may occur. I have vidid memories of me having to call my mom while she was at work to bring me dry clothes because of a puddle-jumping war and her not being impressed, so by having that spare set really saved everyone a lot of time and money.

Also – label EVERYTHING. Hats, mitts, jackets, sweaters, shoes … whatever might get taken off needs to be labelled in the event that something gets lost or mixed up. Labels are generally inexpensive and there are both iron-on and stick-on options.

One more thing … Want to avoid the daily battle of what to wear? Give them a choice of a couple of options, that way they feel like they’re wearing what they want without being impractical. Picking between Shirt A or B and Pants A or B is a lot easier than letting them choose from their whole closet.

Playground Apprehensions

When Isla first started school I was damn certain that Isla was going to accidentally throw herself off the top of the jungle gym and that she’d wind up with a concussion. While we had visited the playground a small handful of times before her starting school, I was still so nervous during that first day of minimally-supervised playtime.

Not wanting to be “that” person sitting my my car across the street from the playground and watching my kid play, I just trusted that she would know her limits and not do anything silly. Thankfully, I never got a call home that she had hurt herself and needed medical attention, and by the end of the school year she was a playground master and needed no assistance on anything. (Under-duck pushes were still requested regularly on the swings though!)

Friendships

If there was one rule that I tried to instil in Isla’s head, it was to be kind to everyone. I would tell her that she didn’t have to necessarily be friends and play with everyone, but it was important to be nice and kind to everyone. Teaching that it’s okay to say “No thank you” to playing with someone without being mean is a difficult thing to do; I didn’t want her to become a bully, but I didn’t necessarily want her to be a pushover either.

On the flipside of that, I also worried about her being bullied, for whatever reason who knows because kids have poor logic to begin with. Acceptance is still something society is working on, but thankfully we had no incidents that needed intervention.

The brightest side to this is that at 5-years old, it’s so easy to figure out a friendship. Generally, it’s as easy as “Oh, you like firetrucks? Me too, lets play!” Don’t be nervous if your child doesn’t instantly create friendships, he or she may just be waiting for the right moment to ask someone else to play.

“See you after school!”

It’s such a bittersweet moment when you drop your child off for their first day at school. You look forward to having some free time to yourself or having your child learn a whole world of new things, but at the same time you think about how much your baby has grown and how quickly time goes by.

Some kids will embrace kindergarten and have no issues transitioning into the school, while others may show some major apprehension. I don’t know which situation is easier, but either way, it’s important to be supportive and reassure them that school is amazing and that they’ll love every moment of it.

I never felt overly emotional about Isla going off to school. I don’t know if it’s because kindergarten has such a gradual entry that made it easier to cope with or if I’m just a cold, emotionless human being, but I never thought I’d be one of the parents crying in the parking lot after dropping her off. I was good for the first two half-days, but the emotions took over after I dropped Isla off for her full first day. Isla’s teacher had her students give their parents little care packages with a very sweet saying and I pretty much wept as I walked with Norah back home.

You got this.

It’s going to be a big year with big emotions and changes, but remember that you got this. Your child has this. Learn from one another and the next 10 months will go by so smoothly and quickly. It’s a whole new chapter in both of your lives, so write it with the best of your abilities. Good luck!

Kindie Survival 101: Bracing for the Germfactory

It’s no secret that any place that hosts a large group of people in a confined space is considered to be a germ factory. Airplanes, cruise ships, you name it, if someone has even the slightest sniffle you’ll be sure to catch it as well.

Kindergarten, and school in general, is no exception. Kids are taught to share everything, but germs are the gift that keeps on giving.

Image result for kindergarten germ meme

I wouldn’t say that kids will for certain be sick all the time when they start going to school, but I will admit that I found Isla waking up with a runny nose WAY more often than when she was even in preschool twice a week. No matter how hard you hammer the “Wash your hands, cover your mouth” ritual into their brains, catching multiple colds during the school year is inevitable. We battled some variety of germ at least once every 6 weeks. Sad, but true.

I wish I could give you tips on how to prevent your kids from getting sick, but I fear there is no way. The best advice I can give would be to not stress out when your kid is sick, and don’t feel guilty if you feel he or she isn’t well enough to go school. Kindergarteners generally don’t miss out on too terribly much when they skip a day or two, and I personally believe that if they’re not feeling well they’re not paying attention in class anyway.

Once Isla had told me that she wasn’t feeling well, but she wasn’t running a fever so I sent her to school anyway. There was a special presentation her class was putting on, and between her turns she just laid on the gym floor completely out of it. I felt horrible when I took her temperature and she was burning up. Needless to say, she stayed home for two days until she was well enough to go back.

Germs, of course, are not limited to just colds and the flu. There’s pink eye. Head lice. Hand, Foot, & Mouth Disease. Don’t those just sound lovely? There’s a vaccine for it now, but chicken pox were the trendy virus back in my day. Thankfullllly we had no serious issues with any of those and *only* one child got pink eye but it was caught before it was spread throughout the classroom. An email was sent home as a precaution so we could properly sanitize anything that went to and from school and we hoped for the best.

I think hoping for the best is the only thing you can really do when it comes to preventing your child from catching bugs and germs. Do your best to have your child wash his or her hands regularly with soap. Have them practice using their “Cough catcher” (i.e., coughing or sneezing into their “elbow pit”). Remind them about personal space and to not get too close to anyone’s face. Just be prepared at home with Tylenol, Kleenex and whatever else you may need to make your child feel better sooner, and take everything else in stride.

Oh yes, and be sure to prepare yourself too, because nothing is harder than trying to get your child out the door for the day when you feel like death yourself. Vitamin C and echinacea are my go-to’s, and I start taking them the moment either child has signs of the sniffles.

Also – kids who went to preschool and/or daycare get sick just as frequently as kids who don’t. There’s no need to question or blame yourself if your child seems to fall ill more than Susan’s kid who went to preschool full time.