As I helped my daughters get ready for their skating lessons, another mom looked over. My four girls—ages 9 through 2—were busy putting on their snowpants, chatting with the skate shop lady, and waiting for me to lace their skates for them. She had one daughter, and I could tell by her expression that she thought doing activities for multiple kids must be tough.
“You have four kids?” she asked me.
“Yep,” I said, jerking the laces tighter on my seven-year-old’s skates. My fingers flew over the knots as I checked my daughters’ heads and reminded my four-year-old to go ask for a helmet.
“They’re all yours?” the lady next to me repeated.
“Yep,” I repeated, wanting to point out the obvious brown hair and eyes the girls all shared. Usually it’s pretty clear that they are sisters, but I guess this mom wanted to double-check. I told my seven-year-old to head for her class and turned to lace my nine-year-old’s skates.
“They look close together,” she offered next.
“They’re all two years apart,” I answered, giving my oldest a once-over. Skates check, helmet check, mitts check: “Go find your teacher.” Only two more girls to go. I started on my four-year-old’s skates, as she also had a class to join.
My fellow mom was still regarding me with awe. She asked about the girls’ lessons, mentioning that she’d seen me on the ice with my two-year-old in past weeks. I said the older three were all in lessons—I’d been excited to find a homeschool class at the same time as preschool classes so they could all skate together. I usually hung out at the other end of the ice with Pearl, watching all four girls in various parts of the arena.
As I circled the ice a few minutes later, holding my Pearl up on her skates and noting the other girls’ progress in their lessons this week, I thought about that mom’s reaction. It’s a reaction that I frequently get when people count my kids. Yes, I’m a mom of five. No, I’m not a supermom.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed systems for organizing activities for multiple kids. These systems help make the girls’ lessons and our family activities easier. Whether you’re taking two kids or five skating or swimming or skiing, here’s my tips for looking like a supermom.
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1. Arrive at Activities Early
I’m really good at trying to do one more thing before we leave—like tossing some dishes in the dishwasher or checking my email quickly. Then I end up stressed out because we’re running late for our activities. Instead, I’ve learned to give myself enough time to get the girls out the door, drive to the rec centre or ski hill, and get changed into whatever they need for the activity.
For example, their skating lessons started at 10:15, but I planned to be at the arena at 10 am to give us time to get ready. If we were early, then they got to watch the Zamboni clear the ice while they waited for their teachers.
2. Keep the Gear Packed
Whether we’re skating, swimming or skiing, I keep the bag packed. We have a swim bag, a skate bag, and several ski bags. When we’re heading out the door, I just have to grab the bag and leave.
When we get home, I make sure we wash or dry anything that needs it and then repack the bags so we are ready next time. This saves me time trying to find a swimsuit or ski helmet when we’re dashing out the door.
3. Encourage Independence
With a big family, I can’t help everyone at once. I know what my girls can’t do themselves (tie their skates tight enough) but I also know what they can do—and what they can help their sisters do.
At the pool, for example, I get Pearl, Jade and myself ready while supervising the older three girls. At the skate shop, they can ask for their own helmets while I’m lacing their sister’s skates.
After activities, they can help dry off skates or wrap swim suits in towels and return them to the bag (with a few reminders).
4. Time Activities for Multiple Kids Right
Book your activities (if you can) at a time that works best for your family. For example, I don’t do lessons around supper-hour or first thing in the morning. We can get out of the house for 10 am; we can’t make it to a lesson at 9 am. If you have a baby or toddler with a predictable schedule, plan around naps. Do your activities for multiple kids work best during naptime, or before or after?
Sometimes it takes some trial-and-error to find out what works (and doesn’t) for your family. This year, I pulled my ten-year-old out of Highland Dance because it was a supper-hour activity that just wasn’t working for our family. Timing may mean sacrificing an activity that a child enjoys (for now) because it doesn’t fit with the overall family schedule.
5. Do Lessons and Activities Together
I’ve found activities for multiple kids work best when I can get them into the same activity at the same time. It might seem like a lot of work to get four girls ready for skating, but that’s easier than getting them ready for four separate activities. This was the other reason Sunshine stopped dance classes; she was the only one going. Instead, I can put Sunshine and Lily into the same skating and swimming lessons, and often find a similar time for Jade to do lessons as well.
I appreciate rec centres and day camp providers that offer multiple levels at the same time. Shop around and ask other families what works for their kids. I currently have the program guides for three separate cities (it’s helpful to live in Vancouver and be able to access multiple rec centres!). I also watch for homeschool lessons, which are often to a wider age range.
If you have children who are close in age, teachers may be flexible about letting a slightly younger child join an older child’s class, or letting an older child stay in a lower level for a couple more lessons. Talk to your rec centre coordinator to find activities for multiple kids in your family. Or find another mom whose kids are in a similar activity, so that you can help each other juggle kids together.
6. Pack the Post-Activity Snacks
I carry a stash of granola bars in my diaper bag. There’s nothing worse than hangry kids! My girls seem to eat like hobbits, and physical activities make them hungrier. Keeping a few healthy, easy-to-pack snacks handy prevents melt-downs after lessons.
How do you plan activities for multiple kids? What helps you get your kids to and from their lessons?