Overscheduled

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These days, there are lots of options available for after-school activities. From sports teams and karate classes to math clubs and music lessons, there’s something for everyone. Often, kids are involved in more than one extracurricular activity, each with its own unique benefits.

When choosing which activities are good for each student, there are lots of factors to consider, such as their interests, social lives, and openness when trying new things. What some parents may not consider, however, is whether a full schedule is too much.

Kids now are growing up in an era where they are exposed to more stimuli than ever before. Many experts say that by scheduling too many activities for children, we deny them the downtime they need to keep a healthy mindset.

Before we talk about how to find that balance, let’s take a look at some of the positives and negatives associated with participating in after-school activities.

The Benefits

One clear benefit of extracurriculars is that they provide a structured routine for kids. Structure is important for developing minds, and these activities are a great way of keeping time outside of school organized. Studies have shown that students who have consistent routines do better academically. Having a consistent schedule also help when it comes to developing productive habits as time goes on.

Similarly, having more than one scheduled activity during the day also teaches kids time management. Rather than simply having afternoons free after school ends, kids get used to budgeting their time for everything they have to do.

The most obvious benefits, however, are the skills that kids can learn from engaging in their interests, as well as the opportunity to socialize with other children with whom they have something in common.

The Risk

For all of the good after-school activities can achieve, they do have one notable drawback that some people overlook. Having too much going on can cause issues. Overscheduling takes a toll on both students and parents.

One negative effect of having too many scheduled activities is that it takes away from unstructured playtime, which is essential to children’s development. Studies have shown that open playtime allows children to develop creativity, problem-solving, and social skills they can’t get in more structured settings like classes and clubs.

Another potential issue that can be caused by overscheduling is the stress that it puts kids under. Even more so than with adults, kids who are stressed are more likely to be irritable, anxious, and disruptive. Additionally, having lots of activities to get to puts strain on parents as well. Many parents already have busy schedules, and adding events for one or more children can stretch them too thin.

Finding Balance

While these concerns are very real, they don’t mean kids shouldn’t participate in after-school programs. Like nearly anything else, the answer lies in finding a healthy balance. Each student and situation will be different, and there are ways of ensuring that they get the mix that works for them.

One way of ensuring that kids don’t get overwhelmed is to add time for relaxing and unstructured play into their schedules. By making downtime part of the discussion when considering which activities to sign up for, you can keep it from getting pushed aside. Whether it’s a certain block of time each night or one or two days every week with no scheduled activities, actively scheduling this time is a great place to start.

In a similar vein, creating a calendar with all of each child’s activities and hanging it up in a central place is another way of making sure students’ schedules don’t become overwhelming. By having everything written out, it can be easier to identify if any child’s schedule is too packed and lacks break time.

The driving factor between both of these ideas, of course, is to make it easier to avoid overscheduling. Practicing moderation has as many benefits when choosing kids’ after-school activities as it does anywhere else. It can be tempting to fill up a student’s time with extracurriculars, either the reasons mentioned above, or to boost their college applications, but it’s essential to keep in mind the unique interests and talents of each different child. Picking one or two activities they enjoy will be far more constructive than packing in clubs, teams, and lessons for quantity rather than quality.

To read more about keeping a healthy balance of scheduled activities, check out these webpages:

https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/how-to-be-a-parent/parenting/hurried-child/#.XR4xIPZFyhc

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/suffer-the-children/201408/overscheduled-kids

https://blog.prepscholar.com/list-of-extracurricular-activities-examples

Evan Weinberger

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