Are Kids Overscheduled?

Soccer practice. Piano lessons. Swimming. Gymnastics. Chess club. Community service. Art classes. Theater. Aikido. Band practice.  Basketball.

That’s a partial list of activities my kids and their friends have been involved in. It’s a list that could go on. And on. Kids are busy. They’re busy developing talents, seeking their passions, spending time with their friends and working on the well-rounded resumes that will get them into college.

There’s a lot of good that comes from all those extra-curriculars. But is it too much of a good thing? Some experts say yes.

Over 70% of American kids take part in at least one extracurricular activity a week. Those aren’t necessarily a problem, though. As long as you don’t overdue it, enrichment activities can be really enriching. U.S. News reports that the most involved kids also get the highest grades and have fewer behavioral problems:

Highly involved children were more likely to be girls from more affluent families, Mata said, and their mothers had attained higher education levels. This group had higher grades and lower levels of delinquency, among other behavioral and academic measurements, compared to less-involved children.

That’s good news for the parents of band geeks and student athletes.

For the 5% to 7% of kids who spend more than 20 hours a week at such activities, it can be another story. Kids who do too much can find their routines exhuasting rather than enriching. Some burn out before they even hit high school. An upcoming symposium on children’s health at Kent University will look closely at the issue of overscheduled kids. They say it’s not typical for kids to be overscheduled, but for those who are it’s a real problem.

While I’m impressed by the results for the highly involved students, I still think little kids need as much free play time as we can possibly give them. Ballet classes might seem great, but not if they interfere with my kids’ all-important schedule of making messes, noodling about and making up silly songs. As I said in my post about Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld’s Harvard acceptance, I don’t need my kids to be world-class pianists or first in their class. I just want them to be happy.

That makes me a pretty laissez-faire parent at times, though I do spend a fair amount of time just hanging out with my kids. What I don’t spend time and money doing is shuttling them from one extracurricular activity to the next. As Linda pointed out in the comments on my post about having bigger families, my kidsare still quite young. I may not be able to get away with this when they’re old enough to sign up for their own extracurricular fun. But for now we keep the overscheduling to a minimum. It works for us.

Photo: stevendepolo

Article Posted 5 years Ago
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