Sports, after-school and other extracurricular activities, not to mention homework, keep kids, and parents, busy from one day to the next. Parents do all they can to ensure their kids are well rounded, and have a chance to experience different things. With this desire to have children get the most out of life, comes the risk of over-scheduling. But there are measures that can be taken to help parents avoid over-scheduling while still providing kids with a well-balanced life.
Enrollment in too many activities has the potential to overwhelm children, leaving them no family time or even time to simply be a kid. As a simple way to battle over-scheduling, parents may consider permitting only one activity for their child to participate in per season. This may take a while, as parents ought to allow children to try a few things before deciding on one.
Having just one activity allows children to have a physical and or creative outlet, while keeping them, and their parents, from being overwhelmed. Limiting children to just one activity is especially helpful to growing families with multiple children.
Jason Schmoll, in an article on policygenious.com says parents “may feel a rush to find that one special activity” for their child, but there’s no need to feel rushed; “rather, give them time to discover what it is they enjoy as it’ll ultimately help ensure they find something they like and pursue into adulthood.”
Consumeraffairs.com shares some questions that will be helpful to parents who are considering that one activity for their child.
- What activities are your child interested in?
- What will your child’s homework load look like?
- What are the means of transportation to the said activities?
- What are your activities, professional and otherwise, and how will that fit into their activities?
Bearing in mind that every family is unique, there may be other questions some parents need to ask that are specific to their situation.
Mimi Doe, author of Busy but Balanced: Practical and Inspirational Ways to Create a Calmer, Closer Family encourages parents to create more balanced lives based on their own values. For instance, if eating dinner together is important to them they should arrange their family’s schedule to make that happen. She adds that it is important for parents to set predictable times that they’re available to listen to their children, whether it’s taking a walk together after dinner or talking for a few minutes before kids go to bed.
Creating a family schedule with the help of children can be useful in keeping the family on track each day, and can be useful in keeping an eye on extracurricular activities to prevent over-scheduling. Parents could, for example, use a large calendar to display the family’s activities on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Daily calendars may be broken down hourly and should include both children’s and parents’ tasks. Dedicating time to activities such as breakfast, dinner and family, is important in protecting the family unit. Protecting family time helps to ensure that children feel loved and helps them learn to interact with persons close to them.
Parents should also consider their priorities and values when planning their own extra-familial activities. Securing family time and downtime in their own schedule is of equal importance in finding balance.
Getting children involved in creating the schedule engenders a feeling of ownership, making them more likely to participate. Getorganized.com suggests that parents
- Use bright colors
- Let kids decorate it with stickers of their favorite characters
- Let them draw pictures on it with crayons or markers
- Hang it low enough for the kids to see it.
“There is no magic formula for making family schedules. You may have to change it a few times before it really works for your family. Just like everything else, it will take some time to get your family used to this.” Be not discouraged if it takes a little time.
Besides breakfast and dinner, activities families can enjoy together include playing board games, going for walks and/or ride bikes and watching a movie. It’s not necessary to pre-schedule every single family event. A little spontaneity can go a long way as long as that special family time is secured.
Physical activity is important for children particularly in their formative years. The CDC recommends at least an hour of physical activity for growing children. If the one extracurricular activity activity they have chosen for the season is a physical one such as a sport of some kind, then it’s likely that their one hour is covered. If they’ve opted for a sedentary activity however, such as learning to play the piano, it will be useful for parents to schedule their kid’s playtime to counteract the sedentary activity.
Adding playtime to the family schedule may sound bizarre, but it provides them a great way to spend time outdoors, be active, and even spend time with other children outside of school. The CDC recommends making it a priority, as spending time with other children can help them learn how to work with others, learn what they enjoy, and learn about the world around them.
Parents can quiet easily and unintentionally over-schedule their family. By taking time to plan ahead they can protect themselves and their children from being overcommitted and enjoy a healthy balanced life.