Mum 2 Mum: Balancing Playtime

We are slowly settling into our kindergarten routine. The program Immy attends operates five full days a fortnight, two days one week and then three days the next. A big change for us considering Immy did not attend child care or any 3 year old pre-kindy type program.

We are both really feeling the effects of the change to the rhythm of our week.  All of a sudden we seem to have a lot less days to do the things that we used to do together. Things like playgroup and gym class and visiting the library, or play dates and catch ups with friends. Let alone time to just be home, to hang out together and see where our day takes us. Time for Immy to play.

In fact, when I asked Immy in the morning if she wanted to go to playgroup this week, her first response was, “I just want to stay home and play with my toys.”

We have dropped gym class for the time being and delayed enrolling in a dance class, despite Immy asking to do dance. Our only ongoing commitment, besides kindy, has been playgroup one morning a week.  Apart from that we have enjoyed a few local play dates. We haven’t even been to the library since kindy started (and have the overdue notice to prove it!) But it seems we are still doing to much.  My small girl is missing time to just play. And be.

It might be time to add ‘free play’ to the calendar.

I am curious. How did your child/ren manage when they first started preschool or kindy? Did you find you had to drop other activities to give your child time to be home and play? How many activities do your kindy aged children do?


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  1. So strange to read this from you. My son’s been enrolled in four activities a week, taking up four afternoons and he’s been feeling the effects of not having enough ‘play’ time and not having a free afternoon for playing with friends, so we’ve just dropped two activities. It’s been a few weeks now and I already note him more relaxed, more curious, more like himself again. He’s now enrolled in one art class and one football class, plus tennis on Saturday mornings (which he wouldn’t give up ever!)

  2. I’ve never had the “luxury” of all day playtime with the Munchkin for years… I worked full time until he was 3, and then started my own biz. So I suppose our version of normal is quite different. If school holidays are anything to go by, I’m not sure I could actually pull it off! Last year he attended pre-school pretty much full time, 5 days a week. He needed that stimulation and he coped really well.

    With that sort of schedule, we’ve never really done many organised activities. I’m hoping that this will continue throughout his school life, as I agree, free playtime is so incredibly important. Our limit is 1 sport and 1 cultural activity a week. At the moment that’s swimming and a hip hop dance class. With his transition into Prep (and only 4 days a week so far), that’s plenty – he’s coming home so tired, he barely has the energy for playtime.

    1. It is really hard to balance, isn’t it? I cannot even imagine how much harder it must be with full time work thrown into the mix as well.

  3. SquiggleMum says:

    Yep, we found the same thing. I dropped everything except MOPS from our week when Lil went to 5-day-fortnight kindy. She just wanted to be home! I do often schedule home days to make sure the kids get a good block of free play time. I don’t think putting it on the calendar is silly at all 🙂

  4. Hi Christie, we’ve kept up with our weekly music and swimming class, but I’ve had to drop local playdates and catchups with friends. Preschool or kindy is tiring, and they need time and quiet to grow and reflect. You can’t fit everything in, and if I try to do too much, we all end up suffering. I listen to them, just like you do with Immy. If Luca is too tired, I give him the choice, even though I know the answer. Oddly enough, if ever I ask him if he’d like to go out or stay at home, he always chooses to stay at home. Funny really, when you think how often we take them out. When most of the time they’re probably happy to just potter at home….

    1. You are so right, they do like to spend time at home pottering. I guess I just need to get my head around the changes, especially as I have always considered the social aspect of our activities so important. Now, she is getting more than enough social time at kindy 🙂

  5. I also wonder how this will work for us in the future because kindy starts here the April after you turn 3 but it is 5 days a week 5 hours a day. It is not compulsory though and I am thinking of waiting til Noah is 4 {so he will start the April after he turns 4 and do a 2 year program} and start the boys at the same time since they are just 12 months apart or maybe hold Shion back til 4 as well. There is a lot of play at school and we will walk to kindy and be home within 10 minutes but it will definitely change the way we spend out days. For me as well I will have to do a lot of “English” work with them at home in order to keep up there English since they will be in a Japanese kindy program.

    I do some work outside the house but mainly on weekends- but also every second Friday afternoon as well {and my MIL watches the boys on the weekdays I work}. I also do music class with Noah once a week, go to the park most days or at least for a walk {we have no yard} and I want to do music class with Shion when he is a bit older too.

    Once kindy starts it will feel like we are not home together much at all…

    1. “Once kindy starts it will feel like we are not home together much at all…” That is exactly how it feels, Lulu!

  6. my 4 year old boy attended 3 year old kinder last year which was only 2.5 hrs a week….it was a great intro for 4 y.o kinder this year which is 11 hours a week, and he is loving so much. we do NO other “scheduled activities” besides casual visits to the library or playground when we feel like it, plus play time with the neighbours kids. I have a 2 year old girl to juggle too, so for me personally, I am not up to running all over the place with committed activities to attend that cost money, for preschoolers who i feel dont need it, it’s overkill! i think parents rush their young preschoolers into these costly classes and buy into the whole extra curricular activities trend that appears to be the norm these days so they feel they are giving the kids the “best start” they can and also to ease their own boredom by breaking up the day so the entire days events dont fall into the lap of mum or dad to structure in some fashion. better than any toddler class that you pay to attend would be to spend 30 mins with your child in an outdoor setting collecting sticks and leaves and observing bugs, letting them explore things totally naturally. there is nothing a 2 or 3 year old can gain from a ‘music appreciation’ class that cant be achieved at home, it’s just so mum or dad can get out the door and socially mix with other adults!

  7. We have dropped almost everything too. On the 3 day week we just do kindy and maybe one small outing for just the 3 of us (my 3 year old, 9 month old and myself). On the 2 day week we usually go out 2 other times that week (one of those is Mum’s group). I am trying to keep Sundays really low key so we can all start the week refreshed.

    1. I think your tip about Sundays is really important, Brooke. It really is about finding a new rhythm to the weeks again (not that the 2 day/3day thing helps much with that!)

  8. My 4 year old is exhausted from her 3 days at Kindy. Decided not to do any classes this term and just keep non-kindy days super quiet. We’re having a pajama day when we just hang out at home and do nice, easy-going things, and then maybe a playdate on the other day. I’m 8 months pregnant with number 3, so it’s good for everyone! xK

  9. We were in the exact same position as you last year. Savvy started a five day fortnight at kindy and had never attended any sort of care. We did suspend activities for the first semester and kept our time at home flexible (no commitments to any activities on a regular basis). By the second half of the year Savvy was keen to take on an activity (just like Blakie and Taleea) so we did this. We always had time for fun family outings, playdates as well as lots of play time, but we kept our schedule fairly flexible.

  10. My eldest went from two days childcare last year to three days of kinder program at childcare this year. He is really feeling it – more structure, no naps on those days and he is quite tired.

    We still do swimming on one of our other free days but we don’t have any other structured activities at the moment.

    1. They do get really tired, Melissa. I have noticed that too with Immy. She is napping more and sleeping so soundly because she is tuckered out.

  11. Jo @Countrylifeexperiment says:

    My eldest is 7 and at school full time, and my second child goes to preschool only 1 day per week. Even so we have deliberately kept extra curricular activities to a minimum so that they can enjoy lots of free time to play.

  12. Very timely post for me. I returned to work 2 days/ week in December and my kids started daycare. My Miss 3 (nearly 4) also does preschool (more structured and school-like than daycare) another day per week. She has gone from being full-time at home with me, to 3 days of care all at once. A few weeks’ ago, I had to take my youngest daughter to an appointment, and left Miss 3 (and Mr 2) with a babysitter for a couple of hours. When I came home I asked Miss 3 if she liked playing with Kirra (babysitter). She said she didn’t want to play with Kirra again… but as we discussed it more she agreed that Kirra was fun and nice but “I just want to play with mummy!”. Aww, my heart broke. Now I try to make at least one day a week all about just my kids and I and having fun together. They won’t be this little for long!

  13. Same same for us! My 5yo daughter started Pre-Primary this year and is full time. She has spent the last 2 years at a daycare centre 2 days a week (she did Kindy there as opposed to a school while my 2yo son has been with his Nonna), 1 day with dad and 2 days with me. She turned to me the other day and said “How come we don’t get special time anymore (one on one time)?” She does Irish Dancing on a Saturday morning and that’s it for now. She wants to do swimming and learn cello but we are holding off for now. She’s so exhausted from adjusting to the earlier starts 5 days a week. On the up side to our new routine, I now get 2 days a week one on one time with my son and I make sure at least one of those days is at home playing whatever he wants to play.

  14. Like you, I am finding life is pretty full for Rebekah with kindy, playgroup and Church plus the occasional playdate. We definitely need our “down time”, so Rebekah can relax and chill-out at home. Besides, I think it is easy to forget that our kindy girls are only 4 – let kids be kids 🙂 I appreciated the sentiments outlined in these articles:–are-you-overdoing-it-a328234 and–but-not-overdoing-it.

    Having said all that, I know Rebekah would LOVE to have Immy over for a playdate sometime, so let me know when you are free 🙂

  15. Our girls (2.5 and 4.5) are in daycare 3 days a week up from 2 days last year and they are tired! We do swimming on one of our free days, and mother’s group on the other. Often I think they are too tired (or maybe it’s me!!) but they just love seeing their friends who they’ve both grown up with and if we miss a week I hear about it! (even though they see some of them at preschool!) We try and keep our weekends with one busier day i.e. shops and/or family visits but with one quieter day – preferably Sunday, like today where we are all lounging about at home!

  16. We have 3 kids each with their own activities so it usually gets really busy in our house. We have a family organiser as well as a calendar so I can check which days have what activities so I don’t overbook when making additional appointments and social events. This year however my middle started school and I’ve cut all of her activities out at least until term 2. She needs the downtime and on top of that both her and her little sister need time together. They miss each other so much now that they’re apart most of the time.

    1. I like the idea of cutting out activities until they have settled into school. Very clever 🙂

  17. It’s so funny you post this as I am in the middle of writing a similar themed post. With a new baby, Grace and I have been stuck at home much more than we used to. However, I’ve just started getting out and about more. Nowadays, we go out 2 or 3 mornings and spend 2 or 3 mornings at home to balance things.

  18. I was just chatting, poolside, to another mum this afternoon, about how those extra curricular activities just seem to insidiously creep in and gobble up all of our free time! My kids both have a swimming lesson and a music class. Swimming, I believe, is essential. And our experience of preschool / junior music classes has been so utterly, hands down wonderful that I’m reluctant to drop them. So for us, it’s about making sure they have a balance. If it ever seems like too much, I’d be happy to put the classes on hold. Also, I’m always thinking about Tricia’s Green Hour post… one hour of free play outside is more restorative than 2 hours free play indoors in my opinion!

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