The other day my friend and I had a ridiculous conversation on the playground while trying to plan a play date for our children. Attempting to schedule a time to get them together proved to be a daunting task.
"We have soccer practice after school on Tuesdays and soccer games scheduled on Thursdays. Oh, we have gymnastics, too, on Thursdays for my little one, and then we have an oral report due on Wednesday that he will be finishing up," I told my friend. "So it looks like we could only play on Monday or Friday."
She scratched her head and reviewed her children's after school activities; "Well, we have dance class on Mondays and Thursdays, swim team on Wednesdays, and Karate class on Fridays, and we have to squeeze in time to do homework, too."
In the end, we realized that there was absolutely no time to schedule a play date. We threw our hands in the air and decided to revisit our calenders after soccer season was over--six weeks later.
The kids still haven't had a play date.
I'm aware that extracurricular activities are important for a child's development but many kids these days are over-scheduled. The majority of moms I know feel like nothing more than a glorified taxi service as they chauffeur their kids from activity to activity.
I don't believe these parents are super competitive or that they're pushing full schedules on their children. It's become the norm for kids' afternoons to be filled with ballet class, piano lessons, soccer practice and homework. Many families don't even sit down for dinner until well after 7:00 pm.
So, how much is too much and how can a parent be sure that their kids are not feeling the strain of over-scheduling?
The American Association of Pediatrics advices parents to be careful not to let a full schedule govern thier child's day. "Your child needs some time that is not governed by the clock. He can benefit just as much from spending quality free time with you and his siblings as he can from structured activities," the AAP said in their radio series; "A Minute for Kids."
They suggest that parents be selective in the organized activities they pick for their children to keep a healthy balance in their child's life. It's also important to let your child have a say in selecting activities.
"Also, evaluate your child’s personality and the time he can realistically devote to structured activities. Not all kids have the same attention spans and interests," the AAP said.
Soccer season is winding down for my son and I'm tempted to not schedule a new activity for him this winter. Perhaps some time at home to play with his toys and use his imagination will give him just the stimulation he needs for a bit. After all, unstructured play is important for kids, too.
Somehow, the idea of an open calender sounds liberating to me.
Do your children participate in after school activities, if so, how many? Does it ever feel like your kids are over-scheduled? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.