With school and fall activities getting into full swing again, your kids’ schedules are likely filling up with homework, sports, music lessons, and more. While scheduling activities is a way to ensure that your child has opportunities to try many different things and develop skills and hobbies, your family commitments can easily spiral out of control, leaving kids and parents alike with too little unstructured time to unwind.
What’s driving this trend? Adults may have their own obsessions with being busy, but why do we let this trickle down to our kids? The stress of wanting our kids to get good grades, excel at their other activities, and become competitive candidates for future jobs and higher education can make getting a head start sound like a good idea. Some kids also want to be involved in tons of extra-curricular activities because, in many ways, these activities are fun.
However, when children lose their unstructured time, they lose more than just time to play. We’ve written before on this blog about letting go of control — and not over-supervising play time. When our kids are allowed to make their own decisions during play, they develop critical skills like self-direction and problem solving, and they learn about their preferences on their own, without anyone telling them what they should or shouldn’t do with their spare time. Do they like to read? Can they while away hours in the backyard engaged in pretend play, or would they rather invite friends over to orchestrate a performance or challenge each other to board games? All of these activities provide valuable life experience and give us, as parents, insight into our kids’ true personalities.
How can we resist the urge to register our kids for every activity going and coming? Start by gauging whether your kids are genuinely interested, and let their responses guide you. If you think it would be great for your daughter to do Girl Scouts, but she really wants to play soccer, leave it at that for now. Children’s interests change over time, and it’s likely your child will end up experimenting with many of the activities you think are important, in one way or another — just not all at once. If your kids are the ones driving the overscheduling, consider setting a limit on the number of after-school activities they can take part in. Then let them choose — and figure out how to make room if they want to try something new.
While school, friends, family, and staying active are all important things to focus on, there are ways to do it that don’t leave our kids — or ourselves— too stressed and tired.
We hope your school year is off to a stress-free start, and we wish you the best of luck finding the right balance for your family. Head over to a Play N’ Learn showroom for an open play session on our play sets, basketball hoops, and trampolines if you need a break and want to burn off some steam!Tweet