The Overscheduled Child
A balanced childhood is one where kids go to school, do a little homework and get to play for a couple of hours before their day ends. This however is not the experience for many overscheduled and stressed out kids at the present time.
When we think back to our own childhoods you may remember playing hide and seek, tag, red rover or skipping ropes and you could probably remember fighting with siblings and friends about rules in many games because we were often left to our own devices.
Things are very different now and many parents feel that it is important to expose their children to as many extracurricular activities as possible from a very early age. Sport, music and languages are just a few examples of activities that can hijack time that children might use to play and explore and just be kids.
Today, children spend most of their time inside, watching television, playing video games and online, when kids do go outside, it tends to be for scheduled activities. Parents today are bombarded with potential dangers to their children and scheduled activities as a way to keep their child close by – some parents even believe that their children are safer inside using passive entertainment than being outside playing.
This means that many children are not getting as much of the developmentally-stimulating unstructured activities that they need because unstructured play time seems to be vanishing.
As children many of us had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, we would manage to get into trouble and find our way out of it, we could daydream or immerse ourselves in hobbies or read comics or books.
From the 1960’s things started to change for children – more time was spent on schoolwork and parents-directed sports, arts, music and language classes began replacing a child’s ‘free time’. Parents also became more fearful – not allowing their children to go out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised.
1. Helps to give children a chance to find and develop their own interests.
2. Helps them to learn decision making, problem solving, self-control and how to follow rules.
3. Helps them to learn how to manage their emotions such as anger, frustration and fear.
4. Allows children to make friends and learn how to get along with others.
I see children and parents who are exhausted from the unrelenting schedule of activities. Children can feel overwhelmed by the amount of activities each week and parents may not have time for their family as a whole or their relationship with their spouse.
Recommended Activities as Your Child Grows
Kindergarten Life should be simple and carefree.
Grade 1: Play dates and playground visits are recommended. Avoid competitive sports activities.
Grade 2: Ask you child what they would like to do and if there is one specific interest pursue it but remember to allow your child some ‘alone time’ when he/she can unwind
Grade 3: Activities that develop motor skills can be good, like team sports or art, but make sure that there is plenty of time for family unstructured activities.
Grade 4/5: By this age your child will probably tell you what activities they would like to pursue. Balancing schoolwork, activities and downtime is important
End of primary school: School and homework become more important, one or two additional activities per week are probably enough.
If your child is struggling to get out of bed each morning, complaining that they feel tired all of the time or are struggling at school then they may need a break from their usual schedule of activities.
Try to slow down, some activities are fine but keep things as balanced as you can, for your child and for you. I see plenty of parents who tell me they are exhausted by their child’s busy schedule!
If you found this blog helpful please share it with your networks … Until next time ..