I read an article in the Vancouver Sun recently about the fine line parents walk between providing an enriched education for our children and over scheduling them. The article like so many I read in the paper these days played heavily on the negatives. If you read the article you would believe that parents are mean tyrants who spend their lives dragging their children kicking and screaming from one extra-curricular activity to the next.
The article then goes on to discuss how children in these situations feel pressured and often begin to fall prey to anxiety related illnesses like stomach problems and depression.
Last week I was assisting a friend teach a public speaking class to a room of grade 4 & 5″s. One activity we had them do was ask their neighbour what they did last night and what they will do tonight. They then stood in front of the room to relate what they had heard.
The results were interesting to hear. 1/3 where what I would describe as very busy – by very busy I mean that they didn’t just have one activity after school. “Karate then Choir” as one girl put it. 1/3 were moderately busy – they just had one activity after school and the remaining 1/3 said that they played with video games last night and planned to play video games tonight.
It’s hard to figure out a balance of up time and down time for your child. Especially when your child clamours to take part in every opportunity that wafts past. Each child is different, two activities a night may not be appropriate for many children, but that doesn’t mean that it”s not appropriate for some. Obviously the answer is to watch your child and follow his or her cues.
Don’t discount the power of unstructured play time. Children learn through play and need to spend a lot of time playing without adult intervention, preferably with other children. Through this chaos they learn order and practice the skills they will need as adults – sharing, patience, diplomacy etc.
One thing though…the less time a child spends in creative play, the harder it will be for them to get started. You can assist by providing props – a costume box or a puppet, something to help them start Imagineering.
So what”s the best schedule for a child? One that is balanced between fun activities and free creative time. Listen to your child, but do push for some free time even if your child resists a little.

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