Back to school time always gets us thinking about all the “stuff” kids get involved with after school – and the classic question of “How much is too much” pops right up. Below, two Care.com staff members share their opinions.
Piano lessons, gymnastics, karate, math clubs – all those things are fun for kids, but too much stuff crammed into too little time makes kids frazzled.
When kids have more than two days per week jam-packed with school followed by structured activities, there’s little time for anything else. There’s still dinner to eat and homework to do before turning in to get quality sleep.
When I worked as an after-school nanny, the kids had structured activities, but not many. Karate classes and dance classes took up a couple of afternoons, but the rest of the time they could play.
Their moods and interests of the day – which changed all the time – let us do something spontaneous. And it was fun! Fun for them to explore and imagine. Fun for them to make up their own rules and be left to their own devices. Fun to learn from play.
I like to think of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip and all their cool inventions – think of the Time Machine or Transmogrifier – both made from cardboard boxes. No one can show kids how to imagine – they just do it, but they need time to let their minds wander.
Do I believe that kids shouldn’t play organized sports or learn to play musical instruments? Of course not! I’m not against things that can definitely enrich a child’s life experience. But more than two a week can also add stress and pressure.
With some time to let minds wander and bodies relax, kids find doing “nothing” becomes “something.” Play is kids’ work!
Jenessa Says: Activities Help Kids Find Their Passions
I confess – my kids are often overscheduled.
Although even I’m sometimes surprised at how crazy busy our family’s schedule is, I think “being a kid” includes having opportunities to explore the world. When else can kids “try on” a bunch of activities for size and see what fits? Childhood is a chance to learn new skills, find hidden talents and then dedicate yourself to getting good at what you enjoy. And what a great early lesson to learn: that being good at something requires discipline and a lot of time? And as a former busy kid, I can tell you all the activities helped me survive in the corporate world as an adult.
As a parent, it’s exciting to see what my kids become passionate about. I love hearing their enthusiasm about landing a first pirouette, hitting a double, getting a basket in the big kid hoop or nailing a math challenge problem. I love seeing their internal drive to improve because they want to.
But there’s no pressure. If they try something and don’t like it? We cut it or move on to something else. We have three kids at home and two of them have five to seven activities between them each week throughout the school year. (The baby’s music groups don’t count just yet!) While it certainly has been challenging trying to manage the sign-ups and schedules while working, I am fortunate to have an incredible nanny and a great family calendar system that my husband, my mom, our nanny and I all use to keep track of the kids and where they are at any given moment in time.
Others can say my kids aren’t enjoying their childhood, but I say my kids are having a great time exploring their passions and even finding out what they don’t like. We have an incredibly crazy, hectic, fulfilling and enjoyable life as a result so I would argue “overscheduled” works for us.