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Over-Scheduled Children

Over-scheduling.  What is it?  Is it a good thing or a bad thing?  Parents today are debating this issue, and no clear answers are as yet apparent.  However, read on for what we know so far.

Over-scheduling is the practice of keeping children busy with structured activities for almost all of their waking hours.  Over-scheduled children are shuttled from school to structured activity to structure activity, with little to no free time each day.

Parents who advocate for this practice do so because they believe that their children’s lives are enhanced by developing knowledge and skills related to a variety of different activities.  For example, Jane takes dance class right after school.  Then, it’s time for dinner.  After dinner, Jane takes individualized music lessons (she is learning to play the violin).  After violin lessons, Jane takes a pottery class.  Then, it’s time to go home and do homework before bedtime.  In sum, Jane is learning a diverse group of skills that will help her become a well-rounded adult.  Further, by exposing Jane to each of these activities, her parents are helping Jane make informed decisions about what she would like to do when she grows up.

Parents who do not advocate for this practice do so because they believe that over-scheduling robs children of essential childhood play and the ability to appreciate and grow from quiet, introspective moments.  These parents believe that free play in childhood is important to develop creative thinking and explore interpersonal relationships and self-knowledge.   Further, these parents believe that quiet, alone moments are when children are most able to think about what they like, what they don’t like, who they are, who they want to be, what they think and feel, etc.  The belief is that children must have these opportunities as children because they form the foundation of a healthy adulthood . . . that children without these opportunities may grow up without adequate self-knowledge or ability to appreciate the quiet, simple moments of life.

There is merit in the perspectives of both sets of parents.  In this author’s opinion, perhaps the best approach is to avoid the extreme of either perspective and find a healthy balance between scheduled activities and free time.

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