The Dangers of Overscheduling Your Child!
Are today’s children being crammed with too many activities? Many parents strive for keeping their child’s schedule packed and live in constant fear that their child will become an underachiever if he isn’t occupied with “thingsto-do” all the time. Taking Billy to hockey practice on Mondays and then guitar lessons on Tuesdays, hockey games on the weekends, and religion school on Sundays, all the while bringing Sally to dance on Wednesdays and Fridays and piano lessons on Thursdays is not only time and money consuming and exhausting for you and your child, but potentially dangerous for the child’s healthy development.
A recent poll conducted by the Public Broadcast Service and the National Parent Teacher Association found that four out of ﬁve parents believe there is a national trend toward overscheduling children. Granted, parents have the best of intentions for their children to be exposed to a variety of things and develop skills in many areas of life at an early age. However, it is important for many parents to get past the feeling of “not doing enough” for their child. Just because a kid enjoys dancing doesn’t mean she has to be registered for organized dance lessons by age three.
There is also the thought that if a child is not exposed to something very early on in life, he/ she won’t ever like it or become the next Michael Phelps or Gabby Douglas. There are families that are always so busy where the weekends are overtaken by traveling to sporting events. We see kids getting involved in youth sports as early as pre-school and early elementary school where adults are trying to instill grown-up values and a competitive nature on their child, trying to turn them into world-class athletes.
Step off the gas pedal a bit and slow down.
Allow your child to discover his/her own passion organically by doing less. Invariably, children will be much happier, less anxious and depressed in the long run and not hold resentment against you for being forced to do something they really didn’t ﬁnd pleasurable in the ﬁrst place. Also, it will save you a lot of time, money, and aggravation in futile, if not counterproductive, attempts at “keeping your child busy.”
Balance “Structured with Unstructured” Play Time
Kids should be getting a balance between structured and unstructured play time. Sending kids outside to play more often would not only go a long way toward combating childhood obesity, but it would simultaneously allow kids to enjoy more unstructured play. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children play outside as much as possible, for at least 60 minutes a day – and especially when the weather is still nice outside – they should take it while they can get it. Unfortunately, almost half of our children aren’t getting outside, while technology has taken up much of their time. School-aged children should be getting 1-2 hours of play time a day, split between structured and unstructured play time. For younger kids, break it up into 15-20 minute bouts. This allows them to do different activities and maintain focus and interest better.
Example of a structured activity: A child throws a ball into a basket.
BENEFIT: Improves coordination and overall motor abilities
Example of an unstructured activity: A child is allowed to run around, put together legos, or play house.
BENEFIT: Improves the child’s ability to problem solve
Keep it fun!
Encourage physical activity by allowing your child to play unorganized, pickup games in the neighborhood. This allows kids to be creative, make up their own rules, regulate themselves, ﬁx problems and resolve conﬂicts as they occur, all while having fun and getting exercise.
For more information on empowering your child and assisting in his/her maturation, decision making, overall development and becoming super healthy, check out Doug’s ofﬁcial website: www.douglashaddad.com
Douglas Haddad is a public school teacher, nutritionist and the author of parenting/child guidance book Save Your Kids… Now! The Revolutionary Guide To Helping Youth Conquer Today’s Challenges and co-author of Top Ten Tips For Tip Top Shape: Super Health Programs For All Professional Fields.
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