The Overscheduled Child

Gray Swimming

In a society of not enough, how do we decide when enough is enough for our children? I am experiencing this with my 3 year old. He is in swimming twice a week and horseback riding lessons once a week. Tee ball is about to start, he would love a gymnastics class and already thinks he’s a ninja, so karate would be great for him. I’d really like to get him started on an instrument, even if it’s banging randomly on some drums. I’m wondering though, how in the world do I offer these opportunities without over stimulating him and overstretching me?

There are articles all over the internet about the dangers of overscheduling your kids and not just letting them be kids. They talk about how our kids are no longer able to entertain themselves, don’t know what to do with themselves if their lives are not planned and scheduled with activities. Yeah, they do.

Kids’ default setting is destructo mode.

My 3 year old is an excellent swimmer and it’s something I hope he retains and chooses to compete in at some point. He loves riding horses and I find it gives me opportunities to teach him about leadership and assertiveness, not to mention caring for animals. Gymnastics would give him an outlet for all the ways he wants to express himself physically. If I can provide him that outlet it would teach him to be aware of his body in time and space (proprioception) and translate into athleticism later. Tee ball will teach him team skills as he does nothing that is team related at this point. I have to come up with activities that cover the most bases without overscheduling and over stimulating him. There has to be time to just go outside and play. He does love to go and throw rocks into mud puddles and find bugs. I think that activity is important as all the others. And, hey, it’s free!

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I got to do a little bit of everything as a kid. I played softball, took piano and guitar lessons, did gymnastics and karate, spent most of my spare time playing outside, seeing if I could break my record of how far I could jump out of the swing in the backyard. If I wasn’t playing I was reading.

I am the second of five girls, so I don’t know how my parents managed to make sure we had all these opportunities and time to accomplish them. I can remember my dad coming home (exhausted from working a twelve hour shift making tires in a tire plant) and playing softball with us in the front yard for hours, or coaching our softball teams. My mom was a stay at home mom with five little girls running around, a veritable Miss Hannigan. Cue the music: “Little girls, little girls, everywhere I look things are..little. I would ring little necks, if only I could get, an acquittal…”

I seriously don’t know how she escaped with her sanity. Oh, wait, she didn’t.

Do any of us come out of this parenting thing sane? If you answered yes, you’re not doing it right- I know that much. I apologize to my mom in my head at least five times a day while raising my two boys. (Mom: the Miss Hannigan reference is comparable in how I perceive raising five girls must have been like, not a comparison to how I experienced you). Before I had kids it wouldn’t have occurred to me to add that little caveat.

I think it boils down to just doing the best damn job you can do

I’m serious. If Gray nearly spins to death on the uneven parallel bars (100 points if you know what movie that’s from), because he’s so overwhelmed due to too many activities, at least he didn’t atrophy in front of an iPad screen. Don’t get me wrong, he watches the iPad, but hopefully I can offset any permanent damage with extracurricular activity.

That makes me wonder… what’s curricular in a preschooler’s life to make something extracurricular? I mean, his job is to try things out, to experiment- that is his curriculum. I’ve thought quite often as he nears the age to be in school all day, why can’t he learn from practical applications? Can’t he learn his ABC’s and 123’s without the mind numbing monotony of school? Can’t his extracurricular activities teach him these things? I’m getting into an entirely different post, aren’t I? Let’s regroup.

I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing to have lots of activities planned for your child. I mean, we all know a kid can entertain him or herself. Hopefully the exposure to multiple activities as a young kid will give them interests that will prevent them from being zombies as teenagers.

2 thoughts on “The Overscheduled Child

  1. I don’t have kids, but it teach children. I’ve often had 5 to 7 year old piano students who are very very stressed, and a few who were starting to be very difficult to handle. A lot of talking to their parents made me realise that these kids had no time to play and had not a single day when they were home spending time with their parents, or playing with their friends. With the kind of lifestyles and commuting in Mumbai, I recommend just 1 exercise class and 1 other hobby class like art, music or dance. Preferably on alternate days, so children get home time and parents are not stressed being chauffeurs. I find from my experiencing teaching, that children who are over scheduled or get too many classes when they’re young, actually have more difficulties thinking, than children who have unstructured play time. I appreciate the fact that you’re thinking about your child’s schedule and trying to work out a balance.

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