Family activities for large families

Our kids are getting to the age where the boys want to participate in soccer, rugby, jiu jitsu, or whatever masculine thing is available outside of the house. I’d be curious to know from those who have larger families where you still have littles at home along with older kids who need to get out – how did you best manage it? What did you find helpful to do? To avoid? To encourage?

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Whole-family sports nights where older kids play and practice more competitively and younger siblings are welcomed/endured and the youngest play on the sidelines together.

Parents taking turns giving rides. Prioritizing closer activities, possibly walkable/cycle-able ones.

Using your large-family-father intuition to head off activities that will inexplicably take up more time than they should.

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Pardon the ramble…

We have seven living children ages 18 to 1. About seven years ago when our oldest boy was nine, we got involved with the neighborhood little league baseball league, whose fields are three miles away from us. From that point we’ve started each successive boy in little league when he turned 7. We’ve served on the board (where does the time come from? I’m not sure) and eaten a lot of Little Caesars at the ballpark for supper. A few years ago we started letting the older boys escort the younger ones by bicycle to the diamonds for practices and some games, when we thought they could handle the risk of crossing the one big street. This helped ease the pressure of having to constantly all be at all the games. Because of this, when we had four boys in four different divisions last season it was workable. We have an old school league where it’s all volunteers and everyone has to pitch in to help the wheels not fall off. We love it. When we had new babies we’d bring them to the fields. They’d be happy, then fuss, then wail. It was ok. The next year they would be better.

We went the baseball route because I like baseball. Though I was never any good at it as a kid. Our friends that have a bunch of kids standardized on soccer. It does take on a life of its own–being on the board, now that we’ve started allowing our boys to try out for tournament teams (several years we said no), baseball season now is four months out of the year. We could pull back–my availability for extra church work and our availability for hospitality take a hit during baseball season–but we’ve made friendships with unbelievers and others outside our church, and it’s such a treasure for our kids to get to put their hearts into working alongside these neighbors and friends as a team. So we’re still in for now.

What we decided to do for our athletic oldest girl, and the handwringing and drama along the way, is a different story.



Consider getting older kids jobs. I got my 13yo son a job reffing soccer games at the park next to our neighborhood.

That’s obviously not full family, but perhaps that’s not the only goal to consider when kids start wanting to do stuff outside the home.

And I’d really like to hear that story, @danielmeyer. If not here, then in another topic.


Our kids have done martial arts for many years. Martial arts tend to be tolerant of different age groups participating at the same time, unlike game-type sports. We have at least found it to be so in our case: My three boys who do it range from 8-17 and all have always trained at the same time. I will likely start my little guy soon, around age 4.5.

We found a small-time instructor who doesn’t have his own studio, which has probably been good for cross-age participation. Our instructor is also a Pentecostal pastor, which I think keeps the worst aspects of the Eastern philosophy in check. Many martial arts these days have very little Eastern influence anyway, for better or worse. I do appreciate the ingrained respect that comes from the Eastern culture: respect for teacher, studio, grand master, parents, senior belts, etc. It’s “yes, sir,” not “yeah,” it’s “excuse me, sir?”, not “huh?”.

I did opt to pull our daughter out several years ago when our teacher started emphasizing sparring more: there is a level of aggression involved with sparring that I didn’t consider healthy for my daughter. That is likely going to be an issue in any organized sport. I have also forbidden my boys from doing contact sparring with female opponents, which our teacher is fine with but would likely hamper my boys from high-level competition if we were into that (I am decidedly meh on the topic.)