My family’s calendar was rather full. Then the word “CANCELED” began to cover the days one by one. No more church activities. No more field trips. All of the extracurricular activities seemed to disappear.
But was that a bad thing? Maybe it was time to break free from the busyness outside of our home!
Research shows too many extracurricular activities can have a negative affect on families. Kids need time to learn about themselves and explore their interests without being bounced from one activity to the next.
This article from Psych Central states that too many extracurricular activities can “potentially harm children’s development and well-being” in addition to putting “excessive strain on family relationships and resources.”
Yes, there are many uncertainties at this time. Things are really strange. People are scared. But maybe this is a good time to reflect on all of those extracurricular activities and intentionally focus on family bonding time.
Assessing Extracurricular Activities
Are those extracurricular activities we are now missing really beneficial? Have they really been doing more good than bad? Are they worth the time?
Each child and family will have different priorities and responses. One child may flourish with a few different activities. But even one ongoing commitment may be too much for another child.
So, how do you know if your child has too many extracurricular activities?
Assess the situation.
What are the benefits of each of the activities? Is the activity something that will have a positive long-term effect? What are the cons of each of the activities? Do the activities negatively affect your child’s schoolwork, family time, sleep schedule or pursuit of their own interests? Do the activities drain your family of too much time and money?
In the end, only you and your family can decide what is best for your situation. Sports are not a high priority for my family. Instead, we are looking forward to resuming our church activities, volunteer opportunities and field trips when the time comes.
Spending Quality Time as a Family
Some extracurricular activities might be great for your family, but too many may have negative results. On the other hand, studies show quality family time has many advantages.
Everyone in the family benefits. Strong family bonds can be formed. Parents learn more about their children’s strengths and weaknesses, allowing them to more accurately direct their path. Communication becomes more open. Children are often happier, healthier and better students.
Dr. Gail Fernandez, a board certified child psychiatrist, further discusses the importance of parents spending time with their children in this article. She reiterates that family time “does not mean rushing from school to extracurricular activity to supervising homework. Interactive time is that spent with both child and parent fully engaged in an activity together.”
But is it enough just to say we are going to spend time as a family?
I find it is much easier to say I am going to do something than actually follow through and do it. I know I need to be more intentional. In fact, I even chose the word “intentional” as my word for 2020.
I love how this article on Psychology Today identifies the importance of being intentional. It says that “parents can harness the power of intention to ensure that, in addition to loading the dishwasher three times in a day or cleaning up yet another broken plate, they also fit in the actions most important to them — the moments of fun, connection and closeness with their kids and partners.”
Somehow, even though most of the extracurricular activities have been canceled, I find I am still “busy.” Homeschooling, chores, writing assignments and more still need to be completed. Yet, we have been gifted this abundance of time with our families, and I must be intentional with making the most of it.
Does your family have a way to intentionally spend time together? I know some schedule family time on their calendars. Others set a certain time each day or a certain day each week to do a family activity.
If you already have that set up, great! If not, now may be a good time to replace some of those canceled slots in your old calendar with family time that will stay on the calendar even after this lockdown is lifted.
I personally am a list person. I have a shopping list, freezer list and a library book list (for books I want to check out from the library when the libraries finally open again!) hanging on my refrigerator. My monthly writing goals list hangs on a wall. My daily to-do list is written on a dry erase board. And there are even more lists scattered around my house. Maybe I am a little addicted to lists, but they work for me.
So, of course, my chosen approach to be intentional with family time is to create a list. But not just any list. Bring on the bubbles, ice cream scoops, paper leaves, and rain drops! I promise it’s not as messy as it sounds, but the process of creating the list in itself is a fun family activity. Let me explain.
Two times a year (at the beginning of spring and again at the beginning of autumn), my daughters and I brainstorm ideas and create a semiannual seasonal activities list. We start by discussing ways we have displayed our list of activities in the past and decide how we want to display them for the upcoming seasons.
Bubbles? Yes, we did that last year.
Ice cream scoops? Yep, we chose to display the list that way two years in a row. There aren’t any rules saying we can’t repeat the same display (as long as we are actually doing the activities)!
This year, we chose to create rain drops for our list.
No matter how we choose to display the list, the process remains the same. We brainstorm some ideas, cut out the pattern we are going to use, write each activity on those pieces of paper and hang them on a wall with painter’s tape.
As we complete the activities, we move them from one wall to another wall in a decorative display. So, the raindrops will be moved from the “activities wall” to a wall that now has a “cloud”.
Our displays are a little elaborate (see more pictures here), yet it’s one of the best ways I have found to be intentional about actually doing the things on the list.
I don’t think we have ever finished all of the activities we have listed (especially since we continue to add to the list as we come up with new ideas), but that is okay.
At the end of summer (since we do spring and summer activities together), we will take this all down and create our autumn and winter list. It’s always a great time to reminisce on the activities we have completed together!
Finding Activities to Do Together
There are so many different kinds of activities families can do together. Check out the list below (yes, another list!) of fun activities you can try this spring and summer even if the libraries, zoos and other fun places are closed.
But please don’t let the list overwhelm you. Remember what I said about how too many activities can have a negative impact on families? Well, that’s the same with family activities. If the family activities you try are not having a positive impact on your family, try something different.
Focus on quality time over quantity of activities. Limit your distractions and have fun!
I have listed the activities below in increasing order of complexity. So if you have younger kids, pick activities from the top of the list, and if you have older kids, the activities at the bottom of the list might work better for you.
Also, I have done my best to link each activity with an awesome resource to help you get your creative juices flowing so you can make the most of it.
If you have multiple people in your family, it’s good to do some activities all together, but it’s also nice to do one-on-one activities with just one parent and one child. Kids benefit from both family time and one-on-one quality time with parents.
There may be a lot of chaos in the world right now, but this is a great time to create new family memories. And who knows, maybe you will even start a new family tradition!
Alright here we go —
50 Activities To Try During The Coronavirus Lockdown (And Beyond!)
- Make and play with bubbles.
- Draw with sidewalk chalk.
- Conduct science experiments.
- Go on a nature walk.
- Play games with a deck of cards.
- Learn with balloons.
- Paint outside.
- Try an ice or water activity.
- Cook something simple.
- Read summer books together.
- Play with water balloons.
- Look through family photos.
- Listen to a story.
- Complete a summer reading challenge.
- Have a movie night.
- Go on a picnic.
- Build an outdoor fort.
- Create an outdoor obstacle course.
- Get muddy.
- Play “guess what’s in the bag.” (This is especially fun to do if each person chooses an object to hide in small paper bags. Then everyone tries to guess what is in each of the bags.)
- Learn how to play a new game (like this one!).
- Send postcards around the world.
- Press flowers.
- Have a cooking challenge.
- Jump rope.
- Try a garden activity.
- Make a collage.
- Build a sandcastle (or a brown sugar castle).
- Take a virtual field trip.
- Go for a bike ride.
- Try a new recipe outside of what you normally cook.
- Start a family book club.
- Journal. (I really like this journal. I have one for each daughter.)
- Create a family photo album.
- Learn a new language.
- Try blind taste tests.
- Make a movie.
- Learn a new skill (sewing, painting, woodworking, etc.).
- Plan a vacation you will take when things return to normal.
- Invent a secret handshake.
- Create a family song.
- Finish chores (in a fun way!).
- Play games.
- Have a dance party.
- Have a staycation. (Continue social distancing with this staycation.)
- Fly homemade paper airplanes.
- Redecorate a room (or organize the house).
- Do a puzzle.
- Make a family time capsule.
10 More Activities for the Whole Family When the Lockdown Ends
This lockdown won’t last forever. Eventually, extracurricular activities will be available again. Will you be filling the calendar as soon as you are able, or will you take time to reflect and continue spending intentional time as a family?
Please don’t let this opportunity of creating a new family tradition slide when the lockdown is over. Keep the momentum of family time going even once places open again. Here are ten bonus family activities you can try when the lockdown ends.
- Enjoy your local library’s reading programs and activities.
- Visit a zoo, museum, or aquarium.
- Go geocaching.
- Go on a scavenger hunt.
- Relax at a beach.
- Go to the farmer’s market. (Maybe your kids can even sell there.)
- Go fishing or camping.
- Go bowling.
- Visit a national park.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
I told you I’m a list person, so your two-minute action plan involves writing lists. Jot down a list of all the extracurricular activities your family did before the lockdown began. Are there more or less activities than you thought there would be?
Write a list of activities your family may be interested in doing together, and set a date to do at least one of them.
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
Assess each of the extracurricular activities you wrote down. Have a family discussion on whether or not they are beneficial. Eliminate any extracurricular activities that are having a negative impact and continue enjoying those that are beneficial when the lockdown ends.
Choose two to three different family activities that interest your family. Whether you have to schedule them on the calendar or create a list, intentionally complete those activities within the next couple of months. Repeat as desired.