Overscheduling Is a No-No
Squelcher #1: Keep 'Em Booked
"It's easy to schedule our kids, because we think it's better than [letting them] do nothing," says Heather Reider, co-CEO of MomsTown, Inc., a media group that produces parenting books and broadcasts. "But really, maybe doing nothing is the best thing for them."
Of course, some extracurricular activities can be major brain-boosters for kids, and offer the opportunity to explore some of the interests they have that don't get touched upon during the school day. But practice-to-meeting-to-class-to-field schedules often don't give kids the chance to appreciate what they're gaining from each individual activity. Parents need to ask themselves: Is the idea of being in a Spanish language group or a ballroom dance class the main reason your child is involved in those activities -- or does he actually dig what he's learning?
How to monitor activity overload:
- Constantly check in with your kids about their schedule. Are there things they're just not having fun with anymore? Let those be the first classes or sports to drop.
- Gauge what they're learning by simply asking, and present them with the opportunity to look like the expert: "You know, I've never taken a drawing class. Can you show me some of the things your teacher has you practice?"
- Remember that extracurriculars can exist informally, too. If your child is talking about taking some astronomy classes at a local science center, take a few trips there with him, first. He may just be interested in the overall topic, which could be sated without months of scheduled classroom time.
- Reserve time to do nothing. Schedule a little sloth time each month -- a Pajama Saturday, maybe, or a weekday afternoon lying on the lawn.