We’ve hit snooze on the sports button in our house, and lemme tell you, it’s been a welcome break! My two boys, 7 and 10, have tried all the big team sports and enjoyed themselves just fine, but recently they both have had a “meh” response to participating in another long season of any of them. And let me tell you, it’s going to take a lot more than “meh” to get me up early on weekends and run our family ragged during the week to make it to all the practices and games. So we did the unthinkable in our Southern California, sports-obsessed town and decided to sit this season out. I’m taking a break from the soccer-mom hustle and the dugout cheers, because as it turns out, sitting through four-hour baseball games and soaking sports gear in stain lifter aren’t actually requirements of motherhood!
Here are some other life skills you can spend time on with your kids in lieu of sports:
Card and board games:
When I was a kid, our family treated game nights like the Olympics, and I think being a well-conditioned board game participant is more than worth adding to your parenting priorities. Developing interest in games, the patience for strategy, and the self-talk required to handle emotional outcomes takes time. But the reward is face-to-face family fun and young minds sharper than the average screen-blitzed brain. The younger you engage your kids in challenges of logic and critical thinking, the more likely they’ll be to pursue and enjoy them later. A win-win if you ask me!
Navigation and maps:
Have you ever paused in the middle of the mall to see if your little kid could get you back to the car? Or loaded your car with groceries and asked your preteen for directions to get you back home? Knowing where you are and maintaining your wits even when you aren’t “in charge” is a teachable skill set that is often overlooked by our generation of helicopter parents. You can work on this by folding it into your normal routine, or by setting aside more adventurous time with little ones to make a treasure map you can follow with a compass, or by sketching a basic rendering of your surrounding neighborhood!
Empathy and emotional intelligence:
Slower weekends give the opportunity for longer conversations and check-ins about the week. There’s no better way to teach empathy than to model the importance of being invested in one another’s emotional well-being. Remember to use open-ended questions, and don’t be afraid to prompt older kids to ask questions about what might be behind their feelings. How did you feel on Friday after the test? Interesting. Why do you think that might be? What a gift for your children to be able to enter a new week emotionally grounded from processing their recent experiences in a loving space.
What? This might not seem like a life skill, but if you’ve ever been handed a jump rope and a box of half-flat balls and been told to “have fun and socialize,” you know it requires some practice and creativity. In the absence of organized sports, you can give your kids the opportunity to run their own PE recess. Plan “move your body hour” or “play time” at the local park, and then let everyone toss their equipment and props of choice into the car. The only rule is that you have to keep moving once you’re unloaded at the park. You can make obstacle courses that morph into flag football, basketball games of HORSE that turn into Simon Says and plain old foot races that end in belly laughter because no one has ever seen mom sprint before. Add friends if your kids need the social aspect or to run more organized play like kickball or pop- fly catch. The idea is to keep things interesting. Studies tell us that the best way to stay in shape is to consistently do physical activities that you enjoy, and there’s no time like the present to help your kids discover that kite flying and cartwheel contests are as valuable as soccer goals and batting cages!