Childrearing

Over-Scheduling Kids With Activities Is Stupid

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My 5-year old son has a love of all things home. He enjoys his “vid-yo games”, aka, the apps he plays on my Kindle and iPad. He loves to fly his action figures all over the house and do the “pew pew pew” thing having them all fight to the death. He enjoys dancing to my Lady Gaga station on Pandora and having me take videos of it with my phone. He loves to play pretend with his big sister and eat waffles in front of the TV and ride his Spiderman bike in the driveway and read with his Mommy and Daddy at bedtime. He is also in daycare nearly all day because my husband and I both work full-time and we firmly believe he needs all the down-time he can get during the week after being “on” all day at school and away from his comforts at home.

You know what he probably wouldn’t love? Getting carted hither and yon most evenings so he could try his hand at any and all of the extracurriculars available to the pre-school (and even baby/toddler) crowd. I know my parents had me in some kiddie gymnastics class at three years old (although I paid no attention and apparently, did not give any shits because when the teacher took attendance, my cousin had to lift up my hand for me to signal my presence). I started piano lessons at five years old and played soccer then too but it just didn’t feel as…I dunno, serious? Committed? Pressure-filled? I sit through my children’s t-ball games now and cannot believe the climate among the parents. I often feel the need to stand up and remind everyone that some of the kids out there are picking their noses (along with some lovely dandelions) and that maybe we should all take a deep breath. No one is headed to the Majors just yet…..they should probably figure out staying dry in their Pull-up all night first.

It is just pointless to over-schedule small children. I really don’t think kids who start sports or any other activity at a very young age seem any more likely to succeed than a child whose parents wait until a more reasonable age to enroll their kids in multiple activities. An age where the child can truly give input about whether they feel any of this is worth their time and energy (and consequently, yours). I can think of several examples of kids I knew growing up who ended up quitting these activities before middle school started because they were already over it having been at it since toddlerhood. I think there is something to be said for letting your kids have a say in what they do and I have trouble believing the 2-5 year old set is really equipped to be making these decisions.

 As for my kids, we currently have a “one activity at a time” rule. Neither of them play instruments yet because I feel at ages five and six they hardly have the discipline and as a busy working mother I hardly have the time to force them to have the discipline. I am not a mom who hovers and I just can’t bring myself to follow them around nagging them to practice. Right now, they both play baseball and that alone is a commitment of two to three games per week each, so it more than fills our dance card as a family. I feel that adding on even one more thing would put us over the edge. I realize this may not be the case with a family that has a parent that does not work outside of the home or who has a more flexible work schedule than we do but I still strongly feel that small children should not have a Gmail calendar filled to the max with commitments. There is so much time in life to be over-scheduled and stressed out- why start in pre-school? I doubt making sure your child is involved in seven activities by the age of four will guarantee anything other than burn-out and frustration- for both of you. 

(Image: Antonio Diaz/Shutterstock)