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Mom to Mom: Extracurricular Activities

Mary Parra Mary Parra is an Ahwatukee mom and has four kids.  

We all know the importance of getting our kids involved in extracurricular activities. But how do you decide what’s right for them and when to start? I may never have a child who excels in a sport, and that’s OK. Right now, I think the message is to help them develop important skills, strength and self-esteem.
I admit I caught the “I have to get my kids in something” bug very early on. I enrolled my daughter in tap dance at the tender age of 3. I think that experience has scarred her for life. We quickly learned she does not like to perform in front of people. She has never again stepped foot in another dance studio or on a stage.

We tried to introduce our oldest son to soccer when he was 4. We found out he prefers to dig in dirt and look for bugs much more than he liked to watch the soccer ball. One day, his coach made the mistake of having him play goalie. Instead of watching his teammates, he started playing with the net. He got so tangled up, they had to call time out to get him unstuck! Not surprisingly, that was the end of soccer for him.

Finally, I decided to take a step back, stop comparing my kids to everyone else’s, and examine my kids and their personalities to find a good match for THEM.

Then, something surprising happened. Thanks to the Wii, my daughter started expressing an interest in tennis. I would have never thought of this game for her, but when she realized how good she was on the Wii, she was encouraged to give it a try. She has been playing tennis for three years now and absolutely loves the sport. What’s important is that she looks forward to her lessons; we don’t have to argue about her going, and her skills are improving. 

When we found out our son has low muscle tone and balance issues, I immediately knew many sports were out, especially team sports. We didn’t want to set him up for failure. We tried swimming and karate, but again, due to his low muscle tone, he just wasn’t physically able to perform certain moves. This only led to frustration and low self-esteem. Still, I wanted him to feel like he was “normal.” I finally found a trampoline class. This is a perfect fit for him! He is unknowingly developing his core, which helps with his balance. It also helps him release his energy, and helps him feel good about himself.

With our younger two, it was easy to pick activities for them. Our 5-year-old is very feisty, and we knew having him kick a soccer ball was a perfect fit. Our youngest has been attracted to the water since the day he was born and also started doing forward rolls at a very early age.  Mention the word “swim” and he has his trunks on in no time. Swimming and gymnastics make him happy.

I think matching your child’s personality to a sport is crucial. I don’t have to battle with any of my kids when it’s time for their lesson or classes, and they all come out of their individual activity happy. To me, that’s a winning combination.

Mom to Mom is a column written by Mary Parra, an Ahwatukee mother of four and a local journalist.

Cardon Children's Medical Center
1400 S. Dobson Road
Mesa, AZ 85202
(480) 412-KIDS (5437)
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