Back-to-school isn’t just about lunch boxes and pencils. It’s also the time when extracurricular activities start up again. And we’re left wondering: How do I avoid having overscheduled kids?
After-school activities are a slippery slope. T started dance lessons when she was three, so continuing those lessons last year seemed to be a no-brainer. As the first couple months of school came around, she was allowed to join in several after-school activities, and she wanted to join just about all of them. By the end of the year, she was enrolled in two dance classes, choir, science club, chess club, and swim lessons. And don’t forget, her sister also took dance and swim lessons.
By the end of each week, you could tell T was exhausted. By the end of the year, I was exhausted.
And comparatively, our kids aren’t even all that busy. We know families who cart kids around all week long and then spend the whole weekend at sports and activities as well.
We all want our kids to excel in life. Having well-rounded children is a priority for many; which means that kids are encouraged to be involved in a variety of activities throughout the year. Making sure they are physically active on a regular basis is a priority for me, and I love that T was interested in clubs that also challenged her intellectually. But is it really best for our kids to be involved in so much? Some studies suggest it is not.
Let me also admit, there’s a slightly selfish side to my concerns. I’m a homebody and have a tendency to be very shy when I first meet someone. The social aspects of many of these extracurriculars wears me thin. I also know that having overscheduled kids conflicts with some of my other parenting priorities like eating dinner together as a family, spending one-on-one time with the kids, and having a little bit of time at the end of the day to spend alone with the Husband.
So this year, we’re implementing a few rules about our schedules. Hopefully, we will be able to strike a good balance between structured activities and free play.
Our 5 Family Rules to Avoid Having Overscheduled Kids
- One sport/physical extracurricular at a time. I encourage my kids to be involved in physical activities. However, we are moving away from a full-year commitment. This year, the girls requested to take a break from dance and try gymnastics, which is held in 10-week sessions. If they don’t like it after 10 weeks then we will move on to something else.
- No conflicting schedules. With the husband’s travel schedule, I am usually the person who does the carpooling. Unless the kids’ activities are at the same time and place, only one kid will be allowed to schedule an activity for each weekday.
- At least one or two free days per week. Some days need to be reserved for family. Period, end of story.
- No Activities After 5:30pm. Dinnertime is for the whole family. Plus, with a little one, we need bedtimes to be consistent.
- No TV on school nights. We actually started this last year. Though it’s not technically an extracurricular activity, leaving the television off in the afternoons helps T stay focused on homework and encouraged both kids to get more creative with the way they play around the house.
As the kids get older, these rules will necessarily change. But for now, I hope that setting these boundaries will help avoid the slippery slope into exhausted and overscheduled kids (and parents).
In other news, T turned seven last week. Is that insane? Our life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs since she was born, but I can’t imagine life without her in it.
T’s Seventh Birthday Interview
- What is your favorite color? Turquoise
- What is your favorite food? Seafood
- What is your least favorite food? Spicy things
- What is your favorite book? Chronicles of Narnia
- What is your favorite toy? My American Girl Doll
- What is your favorite thing to do? Go to Otakon
- What is your favorite song? Love Me Again, John Newman
- What is your favorite show? Africa
- What is your favorite movie? Fantasia
- Who is your best friend? Isabelle B. and Samantha
- Are you afraid of anything? Thunderstorms
- Do you want to get married when you grow up? Yeah
- Who do you want to marry? Griffin
- What do you want to be when you grow up? I don’t know, but I have a bunch of ideas
- What’s the best thing about turning seven? I can help with more cooking projects.
Do your kids participate in a lot of extracurricular activities?
How do you avoid overscheduling your kids?