It can be really hard to create a balanced life for your kids.
We used to think that it was not good for our kids to just watch TV or play computer games endlessly after school, so we started to schedule in activities to broaden their minds.
Then more recently we have been told that our kids are now overscheduled and stressed out, and need the chance to be bored and left to their own devices to encourage thinking and imagination.
As a parent, how can you find a balanced after school activities schedule for your child? How many activities should we be putting our kids into? What is the best schedule of after school activities to help our children be well-rounded kids?
The Benefits of Extra-Curricular Activities
Placing your child in activities such as team sport or art classes encourages them to develop skills with perseverance and practice. They learn how to improve at something and attain something with time and effort.
Kids also do well with structure, including some scheduled after school activities. Scheduling in activities several times a week ensures that they aren’t randomly roaming the neighbourhood or just sitting on screens for hours on end.
Different activities also encourage them to mix in different groups of people and make friends outside their school group.
It encourages social skills and builds confidence. It also helps them to figure out their interests and talents, to build self-esteem and to develop their own sense of individuality and identity.
Activities with some sort of physical exercise or time spent outdoors are very good to keep your child well-rounded. They need breaks outside and time to expend energy in between school and any screen time or homework time at night.
They also learn to stick with something over time, so encourage them to keep at an activity for at least a term to get a feel for it. Don’t let them just quit (but at the same time, don’t force them forever into an activity that they hate).
How much scheduling is too much?
There isn’t a magic number of activities that is right, or that is wrong. It is better to figure this out in terms of time commitment. You are overscheduling your child if they aren’t able to focus or improve on any one skill or if the rest of their life is becoming affected such as school, free time or sleep.
Some activities may require a big time commitment over several days of the week, such as swimming, ice skating or theatre – so for some kids, one activity is enough.
If your child is getting stressed by the type of activities he is enrolled in, or by the sheer number of them, then you may need to re-evaluate the workload a little. (Also, if you are thinking of it as a ‘workload’ to begin with this might be a good sign that you are overscheduling your child!)
A good place to start may be to try to figure out the purpose of the activities – what are you trying to achieve for your child in doing this?
Consider if each activity your child is engaged in is serving the original purpose you had in mind. Is it helping your child to develop any helpful skill or quality that he doesn’t get anywhere else? If not, then perhaps you can cut this particular activity from the schedule.
Any easy way to make sure that your child isn’t overscheduled is to make sure they have time for all of the following:
- Keeping up with schoolwork and homework
- Eight hours of sleep every night
- Quality time with their family every week
- Quality time with friends every week.
If they identify that they are missing out on any of these things then you may need to cut back on after school activities.
Tips for Well-Rounded Kids
In order to get balance in anything, you need to do things in moderation, or add a healthy mix of different things to the recipe. When you are trying to create an after school schedule for your kids, the same principles apply.
You don’t want too much of any one activity, especially for younger children, and you don’t want to book up every afternoon for your child.
Give them a blend of activities that are social, creative, physical and cognitive, to challenge and encourage the different parts of their personality.
As well as all the scheduling, give them time to rest, time to themselves and time to get bored (without screens).
While the list is endless, here are some ideas for after school activities that your child might like to try:
- Team sport
- Bike riding
- Individual athletics
- Dancing or gymnastics
- Music, singing or theatre
- Art classes
- Lego club
- Model trains or airplanes
- Coding or robotics
- Cooking or baking
- Pottery, sewing or other craft
- Walking the dog or helping a neighbour with their younger children
- Volunteering with a local charity
- Joining Cubs/Scouts
There aren’t specific activities that are right or wrong – every child is different
As a parent, the best approach is to set aside scheduled time periods for activities, and encourage them to participate and do their best.
Give your child encouragement to try different things, and introduce them to a range of activities, whether they are structured/guided or self-directed. You and your child will figure out together which ones are good for them.
What other tips do you have for managing after school activities? We would love to hear from you.
If you like this blog, you’ll also find this incredibly valuable (40 ways to connect more with your child).