Ask Car-Free Mom: How do you get your kids to their activities?


OK, no one emailed in this question, but it is something that people ask when I say that we have three kids and no cars. It’s a given these days that kids have a lot of places to be and that it’s the parent’s job to drive them there.

Well, our kids are in some activities this year, but in general we tend to go easy on the extracurriculars. They are expensive, and I don’t like feeling rushed in the afternoons, for me or for the kids. When I do sign them up for something, my first preference is an activity based at their school, which they can get to on their own after dismissal. We’re lucky enough to have a number of these after-school programs available. Second choice is an activity that we can easily walk or bike to.

Take today, for instance. Our school has no art teacher on staff, and my kids love art, so one afternoon a week, my two daughters go to an “art camp” at the home of a local artist. The artist meets them and some other kids on the playground, walks them back to her house, and when they are done, they walk home with their friends.

On other weekday afternoons, one kid or another will have Spanish, drama, soccer or knitting at school, and when they’re done, I’ll walk over to get them or they’ll walk home on their own, depending on the age of the kid involved. We have Girl Scout meetings at our house and at another neighborhood home. In the past, I have taken one kid to gymnastics and golf lessons at locations that we could easily bike to together.

The girls and I have talked recently about a couple of activities that are farther away: ice skating in downtown Oakland and rock climbing at Alameda Point. If I sign them up for ice skating, there may be a lengthy round trip by bus in our future, and I must admit that fear of that has encouraged me to put off looking into skating lessons. If we go rock climbing, we’ll either ride our bikes there, or we may take one of our kids’ friends, and drive that family’s car. I don’t like to depend on favors from friends to get places, but in that scenario, we’d be doing the family a favor by taking their kid to an activity, so it would be a mutual benefit.

So that’s how it’s done. My kids will not end up being those kids who have every extracurricular on their college applications, but I don’t think they’re bored either. And we are lucky enough to live in an area where they have plenty of opportunities in walking or biking distance.


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