While most child development experts would agree that scheduling a child in a wide range of activities is an ideal way to promote development, busy parents question where to draw the line. Although it's important for children to learn new skills, meet new friends, and master new experiences, enrolling a young child in activities can be a slippery slope and may lead to over scheduling.
Where to Draw the Line in After school Participation
While your child may be eager to join a dance class, take a painting class, and play on the soccer team, as a parent, you must know when enough is enough. Like any adult, children need downtime in order to promote balance in their life. If a child is busy every day of the week, they may become overtired and anxious. Their schoolwork may even suffer as a result.
Though extracurricular activities like sports can help to improve teamwork, enhance social skills, and support discipline, children should enjoy activity in moderation.
Parents can use these helpful guidelines to put their child's schedule back into balance:
- Drop one activity immediately. Even though your child may claim that they want to stay enrolled in all of their classes, find out which activities are most important to them. Drop at least one activity to free up one evening per week.
- Become less involved in several activities. Although your child may love playing on the soccer team each weekend, you don't have to commit to every away game. Knowing when to say no will set important boundaries in your child's life and give them time to rest on some weekends.
- Take a break from structured activities. If you're in between sports seasons, there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking a break from functional activities. Your child can still have play dates, spent time at the park, and ride bicycles with friends to get exercise. Taking a break will help their muscles to recuperate so that they can return refreshed next season.
- Schedule a family night. If you're schlepping your kids to activities every day of the week, family bonding time can easily fall by the wayside. To put your family togetherness back on track, schedule a family fun night on a set day of the week, as you would any other activity.
- Research activities before adding to your schedule. If your child wants to try out for the school play, make sure that you understand in advance how many practices will be involved, how many performances are required, and if it will impact their schoolwork. Getting a clear picture of the time commitment before agreeing to an activity will ensure that it doesn't affect your child negatively.
When in doubt, if you happen upon an empty space on your family calendar, leave it alone! It may be tempting to over-schedule your child with a wide range of enriching activities, but many times, less is more. When your child isn't overextended, they can get more out of each activity that they participate in to fuel their development.