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When Do After-School Activities Become Too Much?

Everyday while cruising through the campus of my child’s school one thing I notice most kids and moms have in common is tight scheduling. Baseball, soccer, swimming, basketball, karate, dance, after-school clubs, 4H, Scouts… the list goes on and on. But it got me thinking: when is it too much?

I asked a couple of moms how they pick and choose activities. One mom explained how she tries to make sure they have a couple of free days each week.

“My kids both have two or three things each during the week. Rotates a little depending on the season. I like to make sure there are at least two weekdays with no scheduled activities.”

Another mom told me that being constantly busy is important for her child. “My daughter is in dance, tennis, and gymnastics, and now she wants to do girl scouts. All this on top of homework. I am thinking it is too much and after this session she will have to drop one.”

She went on to say, “This is something that depends on the kid. My daughter is very high maintenance and needs to be doing something most of the time to stay out of trouble. Some kids are calmer and would not be able to handle so many activities.”

I think both moms prove good points. First you set a limit and stick to it, and second you base your decisions based on each individual child’s personality and situation.

As long as grades are good and the stress level doesn’t get too high, anything goes, right? Well there is a flip side that was pointed out to me during a discussion with a first grade teacher I know. She talked about several kids she had known who started playing T-Ball as soon as they were old enough. They played hard all the way through high school, where baseball became serious business. But for a handful of the boys, by high school they had already burned out their arms or knees as well as any chance of going pro or even getting a scholarship.

My opinion is that it’s best to limit our kids to two activities at a time. One yearly on going activity (scouts, 4H, dance, etc.) and one seasonal sport or activity that rotates. This way there is never too much on the kid’s plates at any given time. 

Personally we are sticking with just scouts this year and baseball in the spring in an attempt to keep life simple. Yeah, right.

How about you? How do you decide what activities your kids do and how much do you think is too much?

35 Responses to “When Do After-School Activities Become Too Much?”

  1. Fritter

    I have three boys- all of whom I hope have after school activities someday. I think it will become too much when grades begin to suffer, one doesn't seem to enjoy the activity and it becomes more of a 'job', health/sleep is suffering, or there is a lack of interest. My husband and I will encourage them to do what they want and as long as they want to as well.

  2. miriama59

    It really does depend on the situation and the kids. I think it is absurd when I see some kids who are over-scheduled. When I was a GS leader I had a girl who complained about the things her mom signed her up for. And I agreed. That girl never had a moment to just breathe. There is something to be said for daydreaming. On the other hand I have known kids that could definitely use something to do rather than just watch TV or hang at malls.

    It's a matter of balance just like anything.

  3. Misty

    My daughter is only 6 so right now all she is doing is girl scouts. but I hope to get her in gymnastics this year. I think being busy more then 3 nights a week is too much.

  4. Cheryl W

    I think it is fine for kids to have after school activities, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Today kids are so over scheduled that they barely have time to breath. Of course they are screaming more more, but it is up to the parents to know and set a limit. As a kid, my family traveled and we were always busy, busy, busy with doing activities, both as a family, and as individuals. Now that I am grown, I crave that constant on the go and trying to fill my life with things to do. It is frustrating because "The real world" isn't like that. That leaves me feeling unfulfilled. Had we been limited to our activities and not over stimulated, I think family life would have been an easier transition.

  5. Lisa Weidknecht

    I think after-school activities should be limited to one activity per child. It's more important, in my opinion, that children have as much unstructured free play time as possible.

  6. Peter Schott

    It definitely depends on the kid, but it's up to the parents to know their limits and the limits and the limits for the kids. We have busy periods and not-so-busy periods. So far it's manageable, but not necessarily too much. If we start seeing negative effects, we'll scale it back. One activity per child may not be enough in some cases and in others even that may be too much. For kids who are overscheduled to the point that if one activity runs late it throws the whole day/week off – that's pretty obviously too much (at least to those of us outside).

    I agree with Fritter – if the activity starts being a "job" or "chore", it's probably time to stop unless there's some other reason for it in the first place (like maybe it's a service project to which they've committed a certain period of time).

  7. Charity S.

    I try not to overwhelm my son. It's more important for them to have fun, than to push too much on your child.

  8. Marianna

    I agree! I think kids AND parents can easily become overwhelmed. Enjoyed this article.

  9. Amity Johnson

    I think activities are too much if your child passes out upon returning home and the homework battles arise from them being too tired…

  10. Marilyn

    As a former school teacher, I would say that every child needs time for unstructured play and activities. They also need time for homework, and time just to interact with the rest of the family members. I would recommend no more than two afternoons a week of structured activities until middle school. Then in middle school limit it to one sport at a time or one type of activity when multiple days are involved. If the grades are good, then consider a second structured activity. But the minute grades begin to fall, cut back to one structured activity.

  11. Patricia

    I think it becomes too much when everyone gets stressed out and grades start to suffer.

  12. Suzanne K

    I'm with you on the two activities. When my daughter was younger, each summer she got to try a whole new activity, but when fall came, she had to pick the two she wanted to keep. And, this does depend on the child, as well as parent's situation (time, money, etc). Grades should also be considered. Fortunately, as my daughter has gotten older, she has recognized (on her own) that she doesn't have as much time, outside of school, for her activities and has been discontinuing them. Now, in 11th grade, she's taking 5 AP classes at once and doesn't have time for much else at all (to maintain her very good grades). Fortunately, she's making these decisions herself.

  13. clc408

    Structured activities have their place, but if kids are over scheduled they lose out on the unstructured free play that they need to develop problem solving and learn social interaction. Parents need to work out a balance that includes both.

  14. Indigo

    I taught private high school, and so many of those kids were having knee surgery–it completey freaked me out. And when I heard about all the jobs and extracurricular sports and activities, I actually cut back on homework. There's only so many hours in the day! So please be realistic And remember that high school and college burnout is increasing to the point of ridiculous. You know your child best, but remember the big picture–they'll be grown-ups soon enough.

  15. sharon

    I think if the after school activities promote social skills, education value or physical activities it is usually good. Better than having your kids go home and sit in front of a TV or video games.

  16. deanna

    I nannied for a family that was always going to events every night…different ones for each child. They never ate dinner together because every one was always gone. I think THAT is too much.

  17. Mayhem Mama

    We limit the kids to 1 "social activity" – scouts in our case, and 1 "physical activity" – Tae Kwon Do in the case of my oldest, none for my youngest who is very happy to just play and be a kid at this point (she is 7). They are both involved in church activities on the weekend. We set aside 1 evening a week where NO ONE can plan anything – that is our family night where we either play games together or watch a movie together. We also make sure that our family eats together at least 5 nights a week. Our family life is much more important than a million different activities. My role as a parent is to be their first teacher and to be the teacher of what relationships are supposed to look like – marriage, friendships, parent/child, neighbor, etc. How can I teach those lessons if I never see my child?

  18. inmybookcase

    Gymnastics & Horse Riding lessons are everything that my family needs. Nothing more! I know families that have so many weekly activities going, that their children are constantly tired. I like limits, so my kids aren’t worn out and so they will have time for other things in life.

  19. Erica C.

    I think kids should have 2 week days where they have something to do after school..some club or sport. Too much gets stressful for kids…just like adults!

  20. Audra M

    They become too much when they aren't fun. I encourage my two boys to pick one activity per season (fall, winter spring, summer) in addition to their school work. Normally that is an athletic activity which keeps them active and away from those darn video games.

  21. Kelly K.

    I think after school projects become too much when they get in the way of homework, family time or the childs sleep.

  22. Joanne Schultz

    When kids have too much scheduled that they don't have time enough to relax or finish their homework and school projects, then they really need to cut down on activities. However different kids have different limits. Some love to be on the go all the time and manage to fit it all in because they'd hate to quit any of their activities.

  23. Mary

    I'm a grandma and I think young kids have far too many organized activities these days. I'm talking elementary level. They've forgotten how to plan and entertain themselves because of all these scheduled programs. It's important for them to be active, but not on the go-go-go train. Once during the week and maybe one on an occasional weekend should be plenty for any young child. Let them learn to be creative at home and think for themselves. Maybe by the time they're teens they won't be so bored that they have to go out wandering to find something to entertain them…also known as trouble!

  24. ashley

    i don't think theres a right number limit, it varies from child to child. mine are allowed to participate in whatever they want as long as they want to do it, they have time to do it, and they can still handle school and homework and make good grades

  25. thilak

    my son always be tired after coming from school..he is not much active as other kids do..

  26. ashley

    if they activities are keeping them from concentrating on their school work or having a normal social life, or actually changes the child's personality from stress, they have become too much

  27. Wendy

    I agree with the mom who believes it depends on the child. My daughter wants to do things every night, but my son would rather be home. He's really zapped in the afternoon. My active child takes TaeKwonDo 5 days a week after school, while my son usually goes once. We also have our son in Kumon twice a week. They both want to join scouts, but I don't know when we'd fit it in. As it is I'm running around every night just getting my daughter to TKD and trying to convince my son to go too! lol I think the best rule of thumb is that if you're tired, they're probably tired too.

  28. Kelly Sevy

    Spot on with this write-up, I truly suppose this website needs far more consideration. I’ll most likely be again to learn much more, thanks for that info.

  29. Momma Chay

    I have a 9 yr old girl and a 6 ur old boy. Both take a hip hop class on Thursday and my daughter takes tap on Tuesday. Then Wednesday they both have Awanas. With that work, dinner, laundry, other house work, homework I am realizing I am not able to give each of those things the attention I want to and need too. And the kids seem to be board with it all. It’s going through the motions for them in a way. I feel the would miss doing all of these to a degree, but not detrimental. And with all of this, we are missing quality family time. We used to regularly play board games as a family, and now with all this stuff going in, we seem not to have the time to connect. I am heavely weighing limiting their activities to one night two at max a week, and taking the summer off.

    Your thoughts?


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