It is a real privilege to be able to give our children the chance to be involved in different activities outside of school. It is also natural to want to give them every opportunity available to grow and learn. But its easy to find yourself piling more and more activities in and find that you and your kids are rushing from one thing to the next every after school and on the weekends.
Some experts say over-scheduling your kids like this adds too much stress to both parents and children. But how do you limit it when it seems like more is better and there are so many to choose from?
Here is what a typical kids option list may look like:
Sports: He wants to do soccer but also did hockey last year and has already signed himself up for the badminton club at school.
Music lessons: She really wants to learn guitar and Grandma wants her to learn piano and said she would pay..so do both?
Swimming lessons: A vital skill and safety necessity so probably yes.
Dance: She has been doing Jazz for 3 years but now wants to do Hip Hop too. Do both?
Guides: A great follow on from brownies, they learn great vales and skills – would be a shame to give it up after coming so far.
Phew! Thats alot!
Just 4 of the activities listed above adds up to over 6 hours including travel time with most of that being after school or on the weekend. While many parents couldn’t finance all these, even if you could – should you? Probably not. Squeezing all that into your schedule will likely result in an over scheduled child and stressed parents.
It also leaves less time for homework or just general relaxation time which is really important. According to experts down time can be a good for kids as when they are bored their imaginations kick in and they begin to explore their internal worlds, stimulating creativity and helping them discover their own interests.
So – how to choose?
There are a few things to consider to help guide you to finding the right balance and choosing the right activities:
You obviously have to work within your budget – some activities are more expensive than others, setting a financial limit per term will help guide you in making the right choices. Let the child be involved in the decision making process too.
One practice in school lunchtime and one game per week after school is a good level of commitment for one activity. However some sports require 2 or 3 early morning practices and a weekend game. Don’t sign your child up until you are fully aware of the level of commitment that is needed and how it will impact on other activities and family time.
Other important things to consider:
Is it something my child wants to do?
If their heart is not in it you are at risk of signing yourself up for a whole load of hassle. Kids can be are tired after school and if they are not 100% into the activity it is going to be a huge struggle to get them there, if you are not in the mood for a fight every time it might be better to let it go, saving you money and time.
Each child is different
Just because your first daughter did ballet from age 3 to age 15 and loved it does not not mean that your other daughter will love it too. It might be your idea more than theirs. While encouragement and guidance is great you still need to take into account their different personalities and let them choose what suits them.
Don’t be afraid to switch it around.
Kids interests do change and what they were desperate to be involved in one term can be of little or no interest the next. It is part of their growth and development to want try new things and while we don’t want our kids to be fickle or ‘quitters’ pushing them to continue an activity they are no longer enjoying is likely to be more stress than its worth. However making them see out the term when you have paid and especially if they are part of a team is a good way to teach them about commitment.
When it comes down to it finding the balance will take trial and error. You may under schedule one term and find that your child has too much down time, or you may find that after a term of being very busy with activities that they are not gaining as much from one making it easier to make a choice.
Avoiding over scheduling your child will also mean they get more out of the activities they are doing and will give 100% effort instead of being tired and rushed.
Finding the balance will allow kids to experience structured learning activities along with plenty of down time to explore their own worlds.