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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?