Too Many Extracurricular Activities Can Be Doing Your Kids More Harm Than Good

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We all know how important and beneficial extracurricular activities can be for kids. Whether it’s a team sport, an individual sport or activity, or an art or music class, extracurriculars offer plenty of benefits! But there can come a point where the negative impact of participating in these activities begins to outweigh the positives. Parents nowadays seem to have a “more is better” mentality when it comes to kid’s activities. Weekday afternoons and evenings are filled with lessons and practices, and weekends are devoted to games and tournaments. While it may be fun for the kids (and the parents!), over-scheduling our children and families can be a detrimental effect on them, according to a new study.

Extracurricular activities can be a blessing for plenty of families. But, you know what they say about too much of a good thing.

According to a new study, published in Taylor & Francis journal Sport, Education and Society, extracurriculars can easily take over and impact family life. Researchers interviewed nearly 50 families in primary schools in North-West England. They found that 88% of the children took part in some kind of extracurricular activity on 4-5 days per week. An astonishing 58% of kids did more than one activity per afternoon or evening. Factor in families that have more than one child, and that’s a lot of time!

As a consequence, families were spending less time together. Additionally, the financial and physical toll on parents was enormous. These activities cost money, many times quite a bit of money! And it’s mom and dad who do all the shuttling to and fro.

I have two kids, and only on participates in an extracurricular activity right now. But even that one can be expensive, and yes, I am tired! It takes a lot out of everyone. I’m excited for my girls to participate in an activity they love, but I personally draw the line at committing to more than one at a time, per kid. But, I know plenty of families whose children each do 3-4 activities.

It can come from a need to make sure our kids are happy and having fun. Which I get! But it can also come from societal pressures to keep kids constantly busy.

Dr. Shannon Wheeler is the study’s lead author. She says, “We know that parents are particularly keen to ensure their children get on in life. Parents initiate and facilitate their children’s participation in organized activities as it shows that they are ‘good’ parents. They hope that such activities will benefit their children in both the short-term (by keeping them fit and healthy, and helping them to develop friendship groups) and longer-term (by improving their job prospects).”

Dr. Wheeler continues, “However, our research highlights that the reality can be somewhat different. While children might experience some of these benefits, a busy organized activity schedule can put considerable strain on parents’ resources and families’ relationships, as well as potentially harm children’s development and wellbeing.”

We all want to make sure we’re doing the best for our kiddos. But sometimes, the best means taking a step back and reevaluating what’s important! Extracurricular activities can be so beneficial to kids, but that benefit ends when it starts to impede on other, more important aspects of their lives.

(Image: iStock / Wavebreakmedia)