How Much is Too Much? Managing Kids’ Sports and Activities

Published Tuesday, September 21, 2010 1:10 PM

Do you need a spread sheet to keep track of your children's extracurricular activities? Are your weekends spent coming and going, and going, and going to various sports matches? If you're wondering how much is too much, you aren't alone.

In examining the overscheduled child (and carpool-weary parents) for the article How Much Is Too Much? the San Francisco Chronicle stated:

"A study by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research found that from 1981 through 1997, children's time spent playing structured sports increased by 25 percent, and time spent in unstructured play fell by about the same amount. The study also found that kids have 12 fewer hours of free time a week, eat fewer family dinners, have fewer family conversations per week and take fewer family vacations."

Parents need to walk the line between providing children with enrichment activities and socialization opportunities and unwittingly pushing their children to burnout. Sometimes a soccer match is fun; sometimes it's the last straw. Read on for signs that your child may be too busy for their own good.

While every child is different, parents should be concerned if their children:

  • Feel tired, anxious, or depressed
  • Complain of headaches and stomachaches, due to stress, missed  meals, or lack of sleep
  • Fall behind on their schoolwork, has a drop in grades

If burnout is an issue, it's time to scale back. Parents wishing to provide a healthy balance for their children may find the following tips helpful:

  • Agree on ground rules: Have children pick one sport per season or limit after-school activities to 1-2 times per week.
  • Keep a calendar: Use your kitchen command center  to keep track of activities to avoid over-scheduling.
  • Skip sessions: A beautiful day or a birthday party can be a great excuse to skip a class every once in a while.
  • Carpool: Less driving, less stress. Enough said. 
  • Balance kid and adult activities: Schedule time for you to enjoy hobbies. Carpooling shouldn't be your only activity!
  • Create family time: Family game night, walks or hikes are a great and inexpensive way to spend important family time.
  • Set priorities: School should come first. If homework and grades suffer, activities have to be dropped.
  • Say no: Don't let your child over-schedule; say no or discuss dropping activities to make time for new ones.
  • Schedule downtime: Do-nothing downtime has value.

How does your family balance after-school actives with family time and downtime? Is your child over-scheduled? Share your thoughts here and on the Beyond Folders Community's Facebook and Twitter pages.

by Carly Fadako


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