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People talk a lot about the dangers of the over-scheduled child. Kids participating in too many activities become tired and grumpy. They don’t have time to spend with their family. They get burned out and begin to dislike whatever activity the parent was hoping they would embrace. They don’t have time to just play and be kids.
Before I had my own children, all of this made sense to me. That’s why I decided that my kids would participate in only one activity at a time. If they wanted to take a dance class, that’s all they’d do until the class was over.
If they wanted to play a sport, they wouldn’t be involved in anything else until the end of the season. I wasn’t going to have my kids dealing with all the problems facing over-scheduled children. Then I became a parent.
These days, as my oldest approaches adolescence, I can understand why over-scheduling kids is a legitimate concern. But I no longer believe that all kids should resist participating in multiple activities.
Having spent a few years trying to strike a healthy balance in terms of my kids’ activities, I now believe that “over-scheduled” can be relative from one child to the next. And one family to the next.
Most kids love to be active, and as long as it’s healthy to do so, we want to feed their passions and take advantage of good opportunities, even if it means a tighter schedule for the family.
Here's how I came to that conclusion. When my first son came along, I was giddy with all of the opportunities available to him, all of which increased with each passing year. Once he entered elementary school, I quickly realized that my one-activity-at-a-time commitment was going to be tested. My husband and I wanted him to learn piano. He wanted to be involved in Cub Scouts with his friends from school. Plus, it became apparent that his passion was athletics. He wanted to play every sport in season.
Piano. Scouts. Sports. Add in playdates, homework, family outings and “unstructured playtime." How were we supposed to fit all of that in?
And he was just our first child! We now have three, each with their own opportunities and passions.
One thing to keep in mind is that you don’t have to figure out everything all at once. Just think about one season at a time. If the summer is coming up, then decide only about summer activities. You can reassess when it’s time to think about the fall, then again in the winter. Assess each new season for each child.
Here’s what it comes down to: Is your child happy and thriving and enjoying life without a lot of stress? And does she have some unstructured time to play and just be? If so, don’t worry too much about whether she’s over-scheduled. If she doesn't show any signs of stress from over-scheduling, then most likely she’s simply active, growing and happy.