It’s the age-old question for any Aussie parent: “What should I get my kids into?” The choice is particularly hard in Australia, where the options are essentially endless, and there are lots of social pressures around achieving — particularly in regards to sport. But it’s not as simple as throwing your kid into whatever code you may support, be that AFL, NRL or rugby. The following is a guide to help parents narrow down their options around what extra-curricular activities will best suit their child.
Consider Your Budget
Hobbies can be pretty harsh on the pocket with tuition and equipment expenses quickly adding up. Crunch the numbers, and work out what you can realistically afford. Team sports are generally fairly cheap with seasonal membership fees capped at a certain price. You can also save money by buying second-hand equipment, such as uniforms, and by purchasing training clothing and sports shoes at the end-of-season sales. Music lessons can be a different story, as one-on-one tuition usually starts at around $30 per hour. The cost of musical instruments such as guitars and drum kits can also put a pretty hefty dint in the pocket. Enquire about your options at your child’s school to see if they offer subsidised after-school lessons or optional activities outside of the curriculum. Local community clubs sometimes offer discounted lessons in dance or art, and university students studying musicmight offer cheap private lessons just for pocket money, so it pays to ask around. When you have made your decision,teach your kids to look after their equipment whether it is sports clothes, a musical instrument or craft materials. It also helps to use Kids labels to mark clothing and equipment and minimise the risk of losing/misplacinggear.
Consider the Logistics
A hobby is going to wear thin pretty quickly if it takes hours to get to and from training and games. Choose to associate with a club which is in close proximity to your home. It also pays to pick a sport or activity that works with your family lifestyle and fits snugly into your existing routine. For example, Sundays may be a family or rest day, so that rules soccer out. Likewise, netball games can be scheduled anywhere between 9a.m. – 3p.m., so you need to make the call as to whether this is doable for you. The likes of after-school art lessons might be more practical than weekend rugby games; you just need to weigh your options.
Consider Your Child’s Current Interests
You can make some pretty good assumptions around what is suitable based on your child’s current interests. Watch them closely at play — do they prefer drawing or kicking around a ball? Do they sing along to the radio, or play “drums” onyour pots and pans? Set up a home experiment where you set out sports gear, art materials and a musical instrument, and see what they are drawn to. Another option is to simply ask your child, but be open-mindedto their response. Even a four-year-old can have pretty strong ideas on how he wants to spend his time based on what he has seen and observed among his friends, on TV or in the books he has read.
Consider Your Child’s Personality
Choosing a hobby can be hard because of social pressures and stereotypes around what Aussie kids should be and do. Australia is a nation of sporting superstars, and hence every kid is expected to be good at sport. Your child’s hobby needs to make him or her happy; each child is unique in this respect. Ask yourself,is my child an individual or a team player? Depending on your answer, either tennis or netball might be a better fit. Is he competitive or collaborative? Your answer here should guide the type of competition you enter your child into; i.e. social vs. competitive. Does your child even have an aptitude for sport? Maybe music, dance or art is a better option.
It also pays to assess your motives at this point. The purpose of a hobby should be to allow your child to engage in an activity that challenges them and that they enjoy. Participating in activities is important for kids to make friends and learn social behaviour and rules. But don’t make your child participate in a hobby he or she hates, and don’t choose a sport if your child only wants to play piano. Whenchoosing a hobby for a child, ensure you keep your kid’s best interest at heart.
About the Author: Charlotte Samuels is an Aussie mum with four active primary school kids. She spends the majority of her life supporting her children at their various sports games, music recitals and art exhibitions.