There is a world of opportunity available for most children. From sports to afterschool activities to other extracurricular activities, there are many things to keep your children busy (and that doesn’t even begin to consider the fun of homework...).
As a parent, you want to give them a well-rounded upbringing and an opportunity to enjoy various experiences, but it's easy to fill their plate like it’s Thanksgiving dinner – with an overflowing portion. While more may be better in some cases, that isn’t necessarily true when it comes to activities for your children.
With that in mind, here are some ways to avoid overscheduling your children while still providing them with a well-balanced life.
Find one thing
Overscheduling your children with too many activities may simply overwhelm them, leaving them overcommitted with no time to simply be a child. "A too-busy kid may be tired, irritable, nervous, easily distracted or frequently complain of headaches or stomach aches," says ConsumerAffairs.com. And that doesn’t even take actual schoolwork into consideration.
A simple way to combat overscheduling your children is to find one thing for them to participate in. This may take some time, and you may want to let them try several things before deciding on the one activity.
Having one activity allows them a creative and/or physical outlet, but it also won’t overwhelm them – or you. If you have multiple children, you’ll quickly notice that each child having one activity will fill up your schedule to near max capacity.
As you consider that one activity for your child, some of the questions Consumer Affairs shares may be of help.
- What will your child’s homework load look like?
- What activities are your child interested in?
- What are your activities, professional and otherwise, and how will that fit into their activities?
- What are the means of transportation to the said activities?
Keep in mind there may be other questions you need to ask specific to your situation. You may feel a rush to find that one special activity for your child but don't 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.
Protect your family time
Overscheduling your children may have adverse effects on many things in their life, and in turn, in your life. Poor school grades and other physical effects have been discussed, but that leaves out one significant victim – your family.
A family is a unit, and you want to do all you can to protect it. When you overschedule your children, family time can suffer. It's vital to protect that time as it helps your children feel loved, but it also helps them learn to interact with those close to them – an important life skill worth developing.
Be proactive about protecting that family time. As silly as it might sound, you may even want to go as far as scheduling that time to ensure it happens. It depends on what your family enjoys, of course, but consider some of the following activities:
- Playing board games
- Going for walks and/or ride bikes
- Watching a movie
- Making meals together
Don’t think you have to schedule every family event beforehand. Allow for some spontaneity like reading a book together before bed. Really, any time together, as long as it’s consistent, helps keep outside extracurricular activities from crowding out that precious family time.
Physical exercise is a great benefit of being involved in organized sports as a child. However, one overlooked drawback to overscheduling your children may be physical exhaustion or injury, as WebMD points out.
If you're purposeful about not overscheduling your child, they may miss out on some physical benefits, especially if they choose a non-active activity to enjoy in their formative years. The best way to counteract that loss is to schedule playtime for your child. As simple as that sounds, it provides a great way for them to be active, spend time outside, and even spend time with other children.
The CDC recommends at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day for growing children. If they’re getting that through their chosen activity, then you have your bases covered. If not, make sure to make it a priority for your child as it helps them learn to work with others (organizing play dates with other children is a great way to do this), learn what they enjoy, and learn about the world around them.
The impact on your budget
One overlooked victim of overscheduling is something we don't like to talk about too often – our budget. Sports and other extracurricular activities are fun, but they’re rarely free and, in some cases, can cost a pretty penny.
For example, CNBC reports youth sports tourism – the travel related to your child’s sporting events – is a $7 billion a year industry. Many families spend over 10 percent of their gross income on sports. This doesn’t even begin to calculate the lost time due to traveling for such sporting events. Parents might find themselves spending big even for a single activity; if your child has multiple activities that you need to pay for, that could have a real impact on saving for retirement, saving for college, or paying off debt.
This isn’t to say it's bad to involve your children in sporting activities, but it’s important to know the impact it has and the balance finding one activity can provide, both now and in the long run from a budgetary and non-budgetary perspective.
It's easy to unintentionally overschedule your children. With a little planning, you can protect your children from being overcommitted and enjoy a balanced life.