Kid Activites with Low Parental Committment

Updated on February 06, 2014
F.B. asks from Kew Gardens, NY
27 answers

Mamas & Papas-

The recent dance comp question got me thinking. What kind of kid activities don't require a lot of parental involvement?

This is not a snarky question, but a realistic one. Both of us work, full time. Are there any activities that are pretty light on parental involvement/ travel/ time? If we choose an activity for DS, it would be best if it were one which met say for an hour a week, near our home and that his grandparents could shuttle him to, but not have to be involved with the supervision/ set up/ fundraisers etc.

For instance a travel ice hockey team wouldn't work well for our family, but maybe karate at a local studio might. We love our kid, but we also love our free time and our flexibility. We'd sooner sleep in on the weekend and make fancy pancakes, or skip stones at the pond, or go for an occassional local ski trip than be tied into a team/ activity schedule.

I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions in this regard.

F. B.

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answers from San Francisco on

Classes through the YMCA, Boys & Girls Club or a local community center are going to have less commitment than a major sports league like AYSO or Little League. Things like art or music lessons are also usually low commitment, as they are only once or twice a week and are generally drop off programs. These can be done after school, rather than on the weekend.

I wouldn't recommend karate or other martial arts without doing a lot of research into the local studio. Most programs around here have children going 2-3 times per week.

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answers from San Francisco on

I think anything but sports or other competitive teams, like a competitive dance team. If you have a local theater, he could get involved with that - either acting or stage hand or lighting or whatever. Any of the martial arts would also fit this bill. I don't know if there is a kid's bowling league there, but that also would fit this bill.

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answers from New York on

Most of my kids activities have been low commitment except for my daughter's travel softball team. Really, staying with the in-town "rec" sports vs travel will be low commitment. Same with classes.

Other than the travel softball, the other thing that requires a little more involvement are Scouts for both my kids (but I'm also my daughter's troop leader, so that REALLY takes my time, but I have to admit the lack of involvement with some of my parents kind of pisses me off - and I don't ask for much from them).

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answers from Washington DC on

This depends hugely on your child's age right now. I think your son is around 3 or 4, right? Then basically for the moment, it's a moot point to worry much about activities -- he's going to do whatever you or the grandparents take him to do. Library story time is fine at this age, or "mom and me" classes with grandma (great togetherness time for a grandparent who's active), etc.Check your county or city recreation department schedule, your community center, etc. At his age now, nothing should require much beyond one class or session a week.

But you mention activities like travel ice hockey as a "no," karate as a "yes," etc. Those are for older kids, sometimes much older. I think you're thinking a bit too far ahead, in a way, because as he gets older he's going to figure out for himself what interests him the most, and his interests may not continue to fit with the stay-home-on-Saturday-morning, no-more-than-one-hour-a-week, no-fundraisers life you have now and want to keep for now.

But if he truly develops an interest in an activity that requires more from you, you're going to have to think hard about whether your family is going to support that, and give up some more time to his activity, or whether you will choose to say no to certain activities because they impinge on family time. But the key to me is: As he gets older, what activities express who he is and fulfill him? What makes him feel like his complete and best self? If it's a mellow once-a-week thing that's great. If he ends up loving that travel ice hockey and feeling it's his "thing," you have to ask yourself if you will then adjust your expectations to let him do that.

There's no right or wrong, and your family is ALL of you, not just your child; but you do have to be ready for when the time comes to make choices that involve sacrifice for you (giving up some of the mellowness and time at home) or for him (giving up an activity in favor of something else less time-consuming). He's three now, so he doesn't have to have any activities at all! But in a few years he may come to you asking to try different things that you know--should he continue with them--will cut into your non-work time.

I know you want a reply about what activiites would require less intensive parental involvement, but at his age now, there are plenty of those all around. If you're thinking in terms of the years to come, you'll have to see what activities he is wanting to do. He's now a very young kid so he's going to do what you choose for him. I'm not clear why you're already thinking about avoiding team activities or travel activities, but remember, he may end up more interested anyway in things like hiking, biking, individual sports, arts, whatever--Wait and see.

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answers from Anchorage on

What activities do your kids have an interest in? We make the time for activities only because our kids love them, if they did not we would not do it. I don't mind sacrificing my Saturday morning sleep in because I am helping to support my kids doing something they love, and this time in their life will only be for a short while. If they ever stopped having fun doing the activities then we stop them and save that time and money. For us, it is all about what the kids want and are enjoying.

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answers from Sacramento on

Look for the word "class" instead of "team." I've been fortunate that neither child has been interested in team activities. I know from friends that those require at least two nights of practice on school days and a game on the weekend. Our kids' friends who are involved in team sports go through months where they're nearly unavailable for playdates or Saturday parties.

Our kids have done a variety of classes and all are no parental commitment. You can stay or drop off (depend on the child's age) and most places providing classes offer evening classes that suit working parents. They're usually one day a week, although with some sports like karate, they encourage more than that.

We're in California, so no after-school activities here. (Long ago axed from budgets)

I'm with you 100% on this. I don't want our family time booked up like that, so classes suit our family perfectly.

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answers from Washington DC on

Most of the non-performing arts classes you'd pay for at a rec center, museum, etc. are low parental commitment. Just be there for drop-off and pickup.

Dance, theater, and sports require more involvement typically, but you can find programs that focus on teaching skills rather than competition or performance.

Scouting can be high parental commitment, but again, some troops have a den mom that wants to control everything and only cares that your kid is there on time and leaves when it is over.

You can always just cobble together your own once weekly kid-friendly activity that the grandparents are willing to do. My friend's son took individual Cantonese language lessons with the wife of a local business owner. She had been a teacher but decided to be a SAHM after the family immigrated. It was a win-win.

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answers from Portland on

I know our school offers 1hour after school 'enrichments' which don't really need a parent present. At the end of each quarter, they have a little presentation for about 1 hour, and that's it. My son has taken a couple of art classes through this program and will hopefully be taking Lego Robotics next fall. They also offer dance/movement, cartooning, movie-making, language classes and more.

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answers from Jacksonville on

Martial arts sounds like a good fit for what you are looking for. Most do not want the parents actively involved during class time. You sit and watch, and take your kid home when it's over.

The class times are set, usually a couple times a week for 45-60 minutes each. No fundraisers (you are paying them to teach). No "extras" really.. every so often they will test for a new belt/rank, and often that is at an additional time (like on a Saturday) but it isn't that frequent, at most once every 3 months.
There are no "teams" so no providing snacks or "coach" gifts, etc.
It's a very individual sport.

Also, depending on his age, you could enroll him in a music class. A piano class, for example, typically lasts for 20-30 minutes once per week. They practice daily at home for 30 minutes (that's the typical expectation anyway). You pay a fee, buy music books as needed ($5-8 a pop every few months, maybe several right at the beginning) and provide a piano for them to practice on. The only "involvement" you might have would be an annual or semi-annual recital that your child might perform in and you'd want to go watch.

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answers from Chicago on

YMCA Swimming lessons or sports are really low-key

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answers from Atlanta on

I'm pretty sure it was my dance question that got you thinking about this, and I need to say that our involvement is only so heavy because we're on the comp team. Family commitments are written into our contracts that obligate us to be there and willing to help with basically any and everything the team needs. Don't let that scare you away from dance classes in general! lol When my daughter started (at 4) she took one hour long class a week and that was it. There was nothing extra, and our only involvement was going to her (Saturday night) spring recital. My son plays football and baseball through a youth organizations, and those's are pretty low key unless you sign up to coach or as team mom. Hope you find something that works for your family!! And, I'm sorry again if I turned you off dance classes. lol

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answers from Austin on

Depends on what your child is interested in.
Remember anything school related activities, rely heavily on Parent participation or financial contributions, whether it be Public or private schools.

This includes, Band, Dance Team, Theater, and Sports. Even Math Decathlon, Speech, Debate Teams, Robotics, depend on parents some of the times for transportation, Judging, Helping with contacts, holding events at your school and fund raising. A check goes a long way when you cannot be there.

When our daughter first took dance lessons, there was nothing we had to do, but drop her off. They organized the little performances.

Piano lessons, guitar lessons especially through a private instructor again, you drop them off.

Stay away camp. In the summer there are camps where the kids stay for weeks at a time. You drop them off with their stuff and when you go back to pick them up, it is kind of an all day awards program and demonstrations of their camp activities, projects etc.

Certain sports, they practice for an hour or 2, and then another day have a game.

You will notice that the activities that are the most expensive, have less need for parents to participate. You drop off the child and then once every few months, there may be a performance or exhibit but the business itself takes care of everything else.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

It depends on the activity. My DD's dance class is very low key. We drop her off, we do our thing for an hour, we come back. When my sks were in sports, we had to get them to/from the practices or games but we weren't really involved. When SD did theatre, she had a lot of rehearsals, but only occasionally did we do things like help with costuming, moving stuff or buying food for the cast. We opted NOT to host any cast parties.

I think that it pays to look at your schedules and decide what the overall commitment is. There are also a lot of activities that can be done as one-offs (check your local parks and rec programs). We do the Home Depot kid builder stuff when it fits with our schedule. Or story time at a local business or library. You could join a Meet Up for kids his age to find playdates and other weekly activities. Or you can check out a local Little Gym type place for weekly classes.

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answers from Detroit on

most kid activities are low commitment. for kids did an art class at the community center.. it met for 1 hour on Saturday mornings for 3 weeks.. (there were several sessions.. but each session was 3 weeks long)...

look at your local parks and rec booklet or other local (nearby) communities... the parks and rec activities are cheaper.. of shorter duration and less intense.. for example.. dance at a dance studio .. is a school year commitment... sept - june dance class every week.. but dance class at the community center is 12 weeks in the fall and then if you want.. you can sign up for a second 12 week session in the winter.

even sports are short term.. soccer has 10 games.. (one weekday and one weekend..)but the season is only 5 weeks long and then it is over and done for the fall (or spring)

these short term activites are great for your child to try things and not be stuck doing something for 9 months if they don't really like it..

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answers from San Francisco on

LOL you sound just like my best friend! When her kids were small she didn't know how they would do any kid activities with their work schedules and love of down time on the weekend. But what happens is kids grow and develop interests and you adjust your life accordingly.
Her kids are now 8 and 12 and involved in tennis, gymnastics/cheer and community theater. They make it work, and above all else they only commit to what they can handle. Though certain times are busier and more stressful than others, like the few weeks before a major performance or competition.
Just about ANY activity can be as low key or hardcore as you make it. It's easy enough to sign up for a one hour Saturday morning dance class, but what happens when your child wants more, say wants to do ballet AND tap? or wants to make the local tennis team and therefore needs to go to lessons more than once a week?
So start slow, try different things and let your child explore his interests. If there is a passion there you will be motivated to support it, I promise you. And if not then there's nothing wrong with that either. Plenty of kids are perfectly happy with a life of school, and time with family and friends, not everyone needs or enjoys the extra stuff.

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answers from Boston on

It'll change as your little one gets older and then his friends/teammates/classmates and their families become a bigger part of your life. But for little kids, before you get to elementary school, it's reasonable to look for low-key activities that don't take away from family time. Then as your child gets older, you evaluate what you want to commit to on a season by season basis. When I had only one, and he was 3, I would have laughed if anyone suggested that we'd become a hockey family because of the ridiculous commitment of time and money. And yet 12 years later, here we are with two in hockey and a 3rd starting. Yikes!

Anyway...most communities have low-key weekend programs for pre-schoolers. Karate can be low key for a while, but once a child gets older, you either commit to the black-belt track or you don't. If you decide on the BB track, then at least around here, you're paying well over $100 a month and your child is expected to be at the dojo 3+ days a week. My town's rec department has a pre-school soccer program in the fall that just meets for an hour on Saturdays, and gymnastics studios usually run programs for pre-schoolers on Saturdays as well. There are also learn to skate programs everywhere that run for about 8 weeks at a time from fall to spring and are usually one hour once a week, sometimes a weekday afternoon or a weekend day. Swimming can also be low key (but can get crazy later if your child wants to compete).

At the end of the day, your child's interests will change over time and he might fall into something that he really, really loves. My guess is that when you experience the awe of seeing your older child make an impassioned case for something, commit himself to an activity that makes him work hard, organize himself, push himself and have fun, that like most of us, you'll decide that the weekend pancakes and sleep can be sacrificed for a season.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

We find most things to be fine and designed for busy families and working parents. So far we've tried soccer, baseball, and dek hockey. All were one day a week, drop off/pick up (unless you want to stay which is also fun sometimes). For soccer, we had to volunteer 1 time in the concession stand in an entire season. For baseball, you could either volunteer in the concession stand or give an extra donation. Dek hockey has no volunteer requirement for us. None of them required fundraising.

Now, if your child ends up being a standout talent in something, eg, he really takes to baseball, then maybe he'll want to do a travel team when he's older. But I wouldn't worry about that now. Just try things out, and see what he likes.

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answers from Salinas on

The local Y or rec center is a great resource when kids are small. Dance, tumbling, swim lessons and even the team sports are very low key and easy on the schedule.

Do enjoy your lazy, family time while you can. IMO the best "enrichment" for little ones is spending time as a family.

It does get harder as they grow. My girls are very focused in their activities, they simple love what they do and balancing everything can be hard. We tried for years to keep it to one activity/sport at a time but with one in HS and the other in MS it isn't possible anymore. What they gain from those activities is very meaningful and positive. As kids start to specialize in things they love and are good at, the value of all that time spent really increases. There are lots of lessons you just can't learn within a family or in a classroom.

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answers from San Francisco on

I am all for preserving your blissful weekends as a family as long as possible.

I am not sure the age of your little one. But, how about checking out your local community center and pick out a class he might like. That way you start a small commitment by keeping it M/W, or T/TH or a Saturday afternoon class. And it is only a session at a time and usually 45min to an hour. Your local YMCA might also be a good place to start. They are also fairly inexpensive so you can try a variety of activities til he finds what his gig is.

Family time/dinnertime and weekends are very precious to us. We are very selective in what we allow the kids to be involved in so as to not interrupt what matters most to us. They are all very involved in extra curricular activities but not at the expense of family time and our sense of peace in our home.

That is just us...not saying what others do is wrong. All families are different and have different needs and wants.

Here is a little insight into our activities. Our two middle school kids are in the school musical so this is one day a week after school for 6 months, do summer swim team, middle schoolers are in the school's band/orchestra(has little to no weekend requirement). We love school sponsored activities. Our oldest middle schooler rides his bike during the week to water polo(a club team) and drum lessons and is home by dinner. He loves the independence and I love not having to cart him everywhere.

We did Taekwondo years ago and it was fine on the time commitment until he got good enough for competing..then they started in about needing to take part in competitions. Also, there is no "season", so no break....kept going and going.

Good luck with whatever YOU choose is best for your family's time. one of your "fancy pancakes" for me!! Yummmers!!

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answers from Norfolk on

Taekwondo is pretty good.
If you want to get involved with tournaments then it will mean some heavey parental involvement but if you don't want to do that there's no problem with just sending your child to class and going to belt testing every few months.

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answers from Boston on

Our schools have acter-school activities where kiddo stays when school is out and moms have to pick up since there is no extra bus. Both my girls did these kinds of clubs and we car pooled with other moms so every one of us did not have to drive.
Our local library has lots of after school and weekend programs so check there as well.

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answers from Phoenix on

We do 6-8 week long sports through our city's parks department. Minimal time commitment, inexpensive, no fundraising, very low on crazy competitive parents! My son really liked basketball, so now we sign up for that every couple of months when it cycles through, no major commitments.

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answers from Grand Forks on

I drop my kids off at martial arts a couple of times a week. I drop them at swim lessons every week. They do drop in programs (soccer, basketball, floor hockey, rock climbing, gymnastics) at the Y while I work out. One is doing a weekly soccer camp at the community club for 12 weeks. These are all drop off programs and do not require any parental involvement, they have flexible schedules, or they are short term committments. They will play league soccer in the spring twice a week for 10 weeks, and other than travelling to games, there is not much parental involvement required. They are involved in choir and musical theatre which do have less flexible schedules and require more parental commitment, but they didn't start these until grade three. If you have a YMCA available to you a membership is your best value. You can do swimming and drop in programs when it suits your schedule.

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answers from Honolulu on

Yes, after school enrichment programs/classes do not demand parental participation/involvement.
And it is held on campus, after school.
And it is reasonably priced.
At least that is how it is at my kids' school.

Sports... does typically require, lots of parental involvement and/or fundraisers. During the week and weekends per tournaments/games.

Swimming or classes at a local YMCA does not typically involve lots of parental involvement/fundraisers etc. At least that is how it is in my city.

But depending on the age of your child... and if he/she takes "classes" extracurricular wise... then when you take your child to any said classes... you might or might not, have to... stay there and "wait" for your child, until he/she finishes her/his class or practice etc.

And, depending on what your child does, it may involve, WEEK day and/or WEEKEND, time frames. Or both.

So, depending on your schedule as parents, you either sign up or not, your child for things, or not.
Because ultimately, you need to drive her there and take her home at whatever times, the classes are. And especially on weekdays... when there is school, "evening" type classes/sports meets and practices, DO entail, time management and having your child be able to do, homework etc. and get a good sleep etc. plus, go to their class/sports/activity. Too.

And ultimately, as parents, you decide..... what to sign up your kid for or not. A parent cannot possibly, sign up their kid for ALL and EVERYTHING a kiddo wants to take. There are budget concerns, timing concerns, work schedules, homework involved, etc.
So, do w hat you can, and what your child... can, manage. Pleasantly.

I know families in which their kids don't take anything.
It is because of budget or they rather have their kids have free time.
I also know families in which their kids are signed up for MANY types of activities. And well, they do not have, much free time or family time during the week AND weekends. Because, they are so, busy.

It really is up to you.
And up to you to find out PRIOR, what any said activity or sport, involves. BEFORE you decide to sign up your kid or not.
And what your kid in interested in, or not.

I have 2 kids.
They each do 2 things, outside of school. And it is manageable.
And doable.
AND homework comes, first.
Their activities are during the week AND weekends.
But they still have lots of "free" time and family time.
And it is not things that DEMAND lots of parental involvement nor fundraisers.
My kids, LIKE what they are doing. THEY, chose it.
And it was fine with us.
They love their activities.
And the time demands do not drive us crazy.

**ANOTHER important point is:
If and when your child does do any activity... WHO will be responsible for taking him there, to and from each time???
Talk to your Husband about it, TOO.
Otherwise, YOU will be the one that does it, ALL.
For me and my Hubby, we take TURNS, taking our kids to their extracurricular classes. And it is, FAIR.
My Husband does not expect me... to do it ALL and take my kids to ALL their activities, each time.
And... if you use the Grandparents to do this, do they WANT TO, do it, each and every time????

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answers from Los Angeles on

I feel like scouts is pretty low impact on the parent (as long as you are not the leader!) Parents can choose to come or not come to activities and meetings.

Sports are the trickiest, because games are weekly and you have to go watch the game.

Performing Arts is in-between. There are performance to go see, but usually sporadic, not weekly like a sport.

It's hard when they are young. I still can't exactly drop my 7 year old off at a practice field unsupervised, you know? And that's my oldest.

So far the only activities I can leave her at and not have to stay are scouts (a mom in charge of a small group for an hour) and religious ed (in a church classroom with sign in and sign out). Those seem to have the least impact on me as a mom.

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answers from Seattle on

Well, for now your son is only 3. So you don't need to worry about activities that require parental involvement.
BUT, as he gets older you probably are going to have to sacrifice your sleeping in, fancy pancakes, and ski trips, to let your son do after school activities and weekend sporting events!
It's part of being a parent.
Say you sign your kid up for Karate and he is GOOD! Really good. Your son's teacher wants him to start competing because he thinks he will place well and have more opportunities given to him in karate. You say no? We want to sleep in on Saturday?
My suggestion? Follow your son's lead. He may be the kind of kid that really isn't interested in team sports...lots of kids don't care about sports! BUT, he could be the kind of kid that can't wait until he is old enough to go and kick a soccer ball on a team, and then as parents...we sacrifice. We help them to follow their dreams if it's possible. We don't let frivilous things like sleep (ha) and fancy pancakes hold them back.
Especially as they are getting older! I am HAPPY to have my boys at the soccer field 4-5 days a week for 2-3 hours. When they are playing soccer they are staying out of trouble, getting excersize, and making some great friends. Sounds like a win win to me!

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answers from Washington DC on

in practice, one of us was at 99% of our sons' activities. my dh was the coach through most of the Baseball Years which were the most intense, but we also showed up for all the basketball games and horse shows and the shorter forays into karate, football and soccer.
occasionally, if we had good friends in the group, we'd bug off a practice.
but that was us. and if i had a kid involved in something that bored me to tears, i wouldn't feel obliged to attend each and every practice and performance. i think our boys liked us being there, but would still have had a great time if we'd missed a few. might have been good for my sanity too.
my own childhood was very different (and my circumstances somewhat unusual) in that i rarely had parents at ANYTHING, even school awards ceremonies. like most kids, i accepted that as normal and never expected anything else. those who wring their hands and insist that every child who isn't enveloped in parental involvement will be sad and damaged are looking at a much narrower demographic- kids whose parents aren't involved or interested in them at ALL.
parents can be loving, supportive and involved without attending each and every event in a kid's life.
i know that's a bit tangential to your actual question, but i think that was more the slant of the OQ. in your case i think it's not only okay but sensible and healthy to decide in advance how much time commitment your family can not only handle but enjoy. relaxed weekends are a hugely undervalued commodity in today's busy world. i think i'd have been a much more chilled out groovy mom if i'd lessened our time commitments.

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