Your child’s new friend at daycare is learning to swim, dancing her heart out in ballet, and may just be a budding gymnast. Your nephew has a weekend packed with activities ranging from music lessons to soccer. As your young child develops physically, mentally, and emotionally, it’s a great idea to keep him stimulated with extracurricular activities. But how much is too much?
Families of children who participate in a variety of activities enjoy a number of benefits. Activities like team sports, music classes, art classes, or gymnastics allow children to develop a sense of leadership, confidence, responsibility, and team-building. And kids who engage in a few activities have the opportunity to expand their social circle, meeting new friends and adapting to new social situations. Plus, every activity your child is involved in results in skill-building beyond what you’ve signed up for! When a child learns the basics of music by practicing with an instrument, singing, or dancing, they’re also learning about math. When your child takes his first gymnastics lessons, he is embarking on a journey that will teach him about both physics and the physiology of the human body.
But as you’re signing your child up for activities, make sure that you keep some of the downfalls of a busy schedule in mind. An overloaded schedule can disrupt mealtimes, nap times, and may even interfere with nighttime sleep. And especially in families with multiple kids, the stress of rushing from one activity to the next can have an effect on the entire family. And many families forget about the value of free, unscheduled time. Just as in your child’s preschool schedule, where there are structured times and vitally important free play times. Time for your child to play freely, imagine, and create without too much structure is great for your child’s development as well as her stress levels and confidence.
Once you’ve chosen a few activities, considered the pros and cons, and have settled into a schedule, remember to monitor your kids and their schedules periodically, to make sure their schedules and activities still make sense. Is your child still expressing interest, engagement, and enthusiasm in his activities? If not, it might be time to re-evaluate. Is your little one learning new skills and building confidence? If not, a different activity may be a wise choice. And what does your child’s life look like outside of their scheduled activities? Is there still time for birthday parties, snuggle time on the couch, and family outings? Make sure your kids’ activities aren’t overwhelming the other aspects of their lives, and yours, and you’ll find that you’ll achieve an equilibrium that works for everyone.