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By Fatima Kazee, mum to a professor, a super hero and ‎a little princess.  Part-time wife to a fanatical fisherman. She’s addicted to sneakers, anything chocolatey &  is an invaluable member of the Jozikids and Kznkids team.

We all want to do the best for our kids.  When it comes to their well being and development, this couldn’t be more true.  So how do we as parents navigate the issue of extra murals?  Try everything under the sun or focus on something that your child loves?  How would you know what your child loves if you don’t try everything under the sun?

This is a dilemma I face with my kids. Having the opportunity to engage in extra murals is already a luxury that a lot of parents cannot afford.  So I wanted my children to understand that they couldn’t possibly sign up for anything and everything they felt like.  We also don’t have enough time in a day to be running to various activities and I don’t have that much chit-chat in me either! (Sometimes talking to too many mums while waiting for your child can make you doubt your capabilities as a parent!)  So we came up with a solution and here it is…

Each of my 3 kids had to learn how to swim.  This was non-negotiable as swimming is a very important life skill – I would know because I’ve never learned how to swim.  They each went to swimming lessons and when they were water safe and good enough swimmers, they stopped.  My daughter is 7 and still goes for swimming lessons.  Neither of my boys showed any inclination to becoming Olympic swimmers so we ended their lessons, if they did, we may have continued.  Over and above the swimming, they each are allowed 1 other extra mural of their choice.

We also considered the following:

  • Is it something my child is interested in? This is most important – it shouldn’t be something that I want for them, it must be something they have a keen interest in as well.
  • How much time does the extra mural involve? It shouldn’t be at the expense of homework or studies
  • Linked to that, are you spending unequal amounts of time on each of your kids?
  • What do you need to purchase for the extra mural? Is it too costly or can you manage it easily.
  • How far away is the venue for the extra mural? My daughter would love to take horse riding lessons but most venues are quite far from home. I’m not sure we could make it in time and back home in less than 2 hours which is a lot of time considering all the other things we need to do each day.
  • Is it a team sport or activity? Some kids aren’t team players and may not do well at team sports.  On the other hand, doing that may teach them to become team players which is also a life skill.
  • What are the benefits of the extra mural you’re considering? Is it solely for enjoyment or are there other advantages as well.

This did mean that we had a bit of trying out to start with.  For my eldest though, he is a big soccer fan so this choice was easy.  Not only does he love watching the game but he enjoys the training as well as matches of his own.  Training is also in the evening which means it’s convenient for me to drop him off and get his dad to pick him up.  Games are on the weekend which means that we don’t get to sleep in when he’s playing but seeing how much he loves it makes it worth it.  My other son, having being diagnosed with ADHD a few years ago, led us to trying to find activities that would stimulate him and release his energy.  Also something that would help him focus, concentrate and develop his muscle tone.  Karate was not something he enjoyed although the benefits of martial arts are great for kids with ADHD.

We then tried gymnastics with him and he likes it.  Not only does he get to jump around but as he’s gotten older, the training now includes fitness exercises that are good for him too.  (After a long holiday away, his abs were sore!)  I definitely think gymnastics helps him with muscle tone and control.  I guess musical extra murals would help him too but he’s never really shown an interest in making music of his own so we never explored those options.  My daughter has tried gymnastics and was really good at it.  She now wants to explore the world of ballet and her school offers it so we enroll her for it because it would fit into her school day.

I’d say my main considerations are cost and time.  If we do too much we all become moody and tired and it stops being fun.  I’d like them each to stick to something for long enough to master it and so that they realise that once you’ve made a choice, you need to see it through.

Click here to find extra murals in Gauteng and here in KZN.

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