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    Is Your Child Over Scheduled?
    Tanya Altmann, MD, FAAP posted:
    Parents often feel pressure to involve their children in all the activities that their friends' children are involved in. But with hours spent in school, doing homework, and helping at home, how many evening or weekend activities should be squeezed into an already busy schedule? While sports, music, gymnastics, dance, boy/girl scouts, religious school, play dates, and other activities can enhance a child's life, a balance must be established. Your child does not need to be rushing to an activity every day of the week.

    After introducing your child to a variety of activities, it is best to let her take the lead and participate in one or two activities that she truly enjoys. It is also important to teach your child to follow through with commitments and show up to games, lessons, practices, or whatever other events the activity demands. Therefore, one or two extracurricular commitments per season are really all a child should be expected to handle.

    Unstructured playtime every day is also important. Down time is essential for creativity, as well as for the mind and body to rest. Over scheduling can interfere with down time, study time, and the 10 hours of sleep that children need each night. Too many commitments can also lead to unnecessary stress that children do not need -- stress that can even be harmful to their health and future.

    Do you think your child is over scheduled? How, if at all, would you work to remedy it?
    An_222087 responded:
    I think my children are over scheduled and exhausted. I have a 4 year old girl and 6 year old boy. They do karate twice a week, swimming once a week, and next month the soccer season begins (they are each on a team). In addition, my son has Hebrew school once a week. This schedule leaves little time for playdates or just free play, not to mention getting homework done. I also feel that they are tired in the morning before school. I want to eliminate something but so far have failed in this endeavor. Their best friends are in soccer with them and feel that the team sport thing is very important. The swimming is crucial in my husband's opinion, as a potential life-saving skill (and we have a pool, with a fence). Then there's karate. If they wouldn't want to do it, I would cut it out but they love it and beg for it (and I go to the same studio so I think they feel like it's a family affair). I am hoping that in time an answer will reveal itself. For now, my kids are crazy busy. I became the mother I swore I would never be.
    Lainey_WebMD_Staff responded:
    Our boys were in sports constantly and made it difficult to have any time to plan vacations or trips with the family. We cut back to 1 sport a year.
    eastcoastbeachgirl replied to An_222087's response:
    When kids are young, like yours, it is easy to over schedule them, but as time goes on and school becomes much more demanding you will really have to scale back their activities. We make school #1 with homework being the first line of business after school. When my kids were really small I didn't have that problem as we didn't have the money for the activities and my son was to sick to join anything.

    As much as I love sports, I am a bigger fan of free play for kids, we have our whole adult lives to follow schedules and demanding routines. Childhood is the only time you can just hang out if you want to or do spur of the moment things. I am an avid reader and trips to the library each week are a must.

    If you have a pool, how about giving up swim lessons during the warm months when you can use your own pool? We joined the YMCA to use their indoor pool during the winter months. My kids no longer take swim lessons, they swim very well and are not interested in joining a swim team, so we let the lessons go. Using the pool during the summer creates lots of free play time with or without friends.

    How about karate once a week, is there really a need for twice a week? Are they going to go into competition? Soccer and Basketball are popular with my kids and they have opposite seasons, so there is no doubling up on sports. My son who is 7 now plays baseball in spring and early summer but he doesn't like soccer. We have no scheduled sports or activities over the summer, lots of free time for family and friends.

    We also leveled out an area in the backyard, used railroad ties as a frame, line with plastic, then flood it in December for outdoor ice skating. My kids took lessons for a short time just to learn how to skate, now we have pick up hockey games in the backyard with neighborhood kids which is great as my son loves hockey but due to health issues he can not play on a team.

    With this winter being so snowy (we are just north of Boston MA) my kids have discovered the joys of sledding on the bigger hills. We bring hot chocolate and snacks and have our own tailgate party while sledding. I had forgotten how much I liked sledding, I have a few spectacular bruises but many many more laughs. We do wear helmuts for sledding, it is dangerous, that is why I never took my kids when they were younger. My kid are 5, 7, 9 and 12 which makes sledding eaiser as they all can bring their own sleds back up the hill.

    Good luck, you will figure out what is best for your kids as time goes on.
    OAIMamma replied to An_222087's response:
    You have great reasons for all of these activities, clearly you're being thoughtful about what you're choosing for your kids.

    However, I think you're feeling concern about overscheduling because you're trying to do everything at once. It's not uncommon, and kids are such sponges they tend to show interest in many things at once.

    The way that we avoid overscheduling in my family is to alternate activities. So rather than doing two sports at once, we'll do one season of soccer and then do a season of ice skating. Same with swimming--we do a Saturday class during the school year but take off summers (and winter holidays). This keeps my husband and me from going crazy trying to manage schedules and carpools, and it allows the kids time to focus on one thing and have down time at home.

    As an example, my son just finished a soccer season. He had two sessions a week for practice and a game, and on the other days he liked to practice on his own (or with his sister). He demonstrated plenty of skill development by the end of the season, but because we kept a manageable homework schedule and he had time to pursue other interests, he really enjoyed his time with his soccer team. And my husband and I feel good that he's getting plenty of sleep and doing well in school.

    Sure, we want our kids to do their best. But we don't have expectations that they need to earn multiple sports scholarships and speak a dozen languages and play every type of musical instrument. I think it's equally important to teach children the importance of prioritizing, budgeting time, and saying "no" to things to allow yourself to find balance in your life. If you say "yes" to too many things, then it seems like "yes" loses impact--when you're spread too thin, it's that much more difficult to accomplish much on any one thing.

    Good luck!

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