What is your definition of an overscheduled child?

6  Answers

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It's as simple as this: If a child is running from activity to activity all day long, whether in the home, on the athletic field, moving from lesson to lesson, or anything else without periods of down-time in between, the child is overscheduled. Children changing clothing in minivans and restrooms are likely overscheduled. Families that routinely pack lunch coolers and stop for fast food probably have overscheduled children. Weary moms and dads with no time for themselves more than likely have overscheduled children. Children who are not read to, who have no time to read independently, play quietly with LEGO sets, draw pictures, watch a quiet television movie, eat and sleep at regular times every day, and things of this nature, are possibly overscheduled.

The longer I do this, the more I continue to understand the need for children (entire families) to enjoy unstructured free time. Young children may be overscheduled because young parents may feel compelled to "do it all". Older children may be overscheduled for a great variety of reasons, too. Trying to fit many activities into a day, meet too-high expectations, keep up with friends, or reach some perception of a properly raised (or educated, or healthy or social...) are just some the factors contributing to the phenomenon.

Research is just beginning to bear out the results of these overscheduled children -- and the outcomes aren't always pretty. Anxieties, stress, obesity, and so much more is seen. Bottom line, these children are not better off.

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I think that if a child is eating most meals on the run, getting few free hours for play and spending most of their after-school time in structured activities then they are probably over scheduled. One of the few benefits of working with underprivileged children is that I rarely see any over-scheduled children since most of our families cannot afford even 1 after school activity. I think that if a child truly loves an activity then they should be encouraged to pursue it, but not at the cost of family time. They should also have time for homework as well as unstructured play time.

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Every child is different, and you must be attentive to their signs and symptoms of schedule overload. When your child starts crying when it's time to leave the house even if your headed to Chucke Cheese, you know something is wrong. They must have downtime, where creative play is involved and without unreasonable time constraints. Ask them- they will tell you if it's too much.

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One that is often tired, cranky, sad, and has sleep problems. One to two after school activities per week is plenty. Kids work hard during the school day. They need downtime and to learn how to relax and slow down.

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I can't improve upon Sean's answer except to add that it is definitely an individual thing. I thrived on activity as a child but I have a few of my own who can't handle more than one or two things outside of their schoolwork.

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It depends on age. The Pythagorean answer is if 20 minus their age is less than the amount of free time in hours they have per week. In other words, I like an amount of free time which would probably require your child to NOT be a professional 'something'. Of course, if the child loves what they are doing, then can they be overscheduled?

Seriously though, this is a tough one to state as a rule. I do think think that free, undersupervised, disorganized, unstructured time is what teaches people to not get bored and encourages dynamic creativity.

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