Activities For Children: Are We Overdoing Them?

Many of us today are guilty of over-scheduling our children’s lives with activities, ostensibly in order to make them more well-rounded individuals. Yet, when a mother like Amy Chua comes out clean about her over-scheduling method of parenting, we deem it too military. And is it really such a bad thing to send our kids to classes and other activities. And when has a music or art class ever harmed a child?

Activities For Children: Are We Overdoing Them?

Well ostensibly it hasn’t.  But remember that old adage which goes ‘Too much of a good thing can be bad’. And there is more than some truth to it. Research has shown that free-play and alone time are crucial in developing thinking and creative skills. Imagination thrives in a less structured or regimented environment.

And not all children will have the innate ability for certain things like violin or dance or even karate. Pushing them into learning something that they do not have a natural aptitude for may actually have the opposite effect of deterring their morale.

Does that mean that we do not send our children to any classes or other extra-curricular activities and make them hermits? No. That would be extreme. The idea is to be more child lead and do activities that are closer to the child’s forte and therefore enjoyable to them. This will ensure that the child goes for the classes without resentment and also learns something there. Interest is the strongest impetus to learning after all. If you are uncertain about which activities to enroll your child in, the best thing would be to set up a few trial classes to begin with. This will help you gauge if the class matches with your child’s temperament and talents.

The other important thing is to keep these extra classes down to one or two in a week. It may be tempting to enroll for more than a few activities – especially if there are peers who are doing it. But remember, we need the free time in between to grow and develop!

One of the unfortunate by-products of our modern lives, which are scheduled down to the minute is boredom! It is true. Faced suddenly with an unscheduled slot of time in the day, we (or our children) do not know how to spend it. Television is unfortunately the recourse for many.

However, boredom should not come so easily. An empty slot of time should be seen as an opportunity to do something new or just be still. We need to teach our children that. And the easiest and most beneficial way to do this is to allow for patches of unscheduled time in a day when a child can learn how to entertain herself without any adult guidance.

As always there is a very thin line in decisions about scheduling. And like many decisions that a parent must make, these choices also have to be vetted with practicality and pragmatism. Follow your gut and try not succumb to peer pressure or the latest fad. The ideal childhood environment would be one where there is exposure to several stimulating activities that are spaced out with enough free time to allow for assimilation, enjoyment and growth.

Nidhi Dorairaj Bruce is a Freelance writer from Mumbai. With no formal education in Parenting, she has been getting on-the-job training ever since her daughter, affectionately referred to as ‘the kidlet’, arrived on the scene 5 years ago. On Twitter, you can connect with Nidhi @typewritermom

  • Amrita Thavrani

    Whole parenting lives on balancing.. walking on the tight rope. The more perfect we try to make it for us, the more difficult it becomes for the kids to follow the regime. Ah ! you raised some valid points Nidhi !

    • Nidhi

      Tightrope is what it is 🙂

  • Most parents pack the kids schedules because they dont have time to be with them and no one else is also there to take care. This is true in most nuclear family setups in cities.

    • Nidhi

      Well I know that’s how it appears to be, but may I do believe that it also is a matter of choice (as far as the parent is concerned) – example – me -nuclear family in a big city 😉

  • Interesting! We had something similar on our blog roll that you may find interesting Nidhi :

    And as I remarked, The different number of classes that we send kids to from an early age – while in some cases, these classes are in order to explore kids’ interests and talents, many times, I think, these classes are simply a way to preserve mom’s sanity. Sending kids for different classes keeps them constructively occupied and the mother can avoid having to entertain them continuously. This is especially a much-needed break when you have a single child, or no extended family support, or maybe not too many other children in the neighbourhood. After all, far better to keep the kids occupied with art and dance rather than PSP and TV. And if, along the way, they discover a new passion or talent, all the better!

    Kritika Srinivasan

    • Nidhi

      Agreed – classes are any day better than TV or video games. What I am rooting for is more time for free play and exploration – which typically gets compromised in the case of our over-scheduled days :/

  • Good point Nidhi… I believe that there is no harm trying various classes for kids but watch out for Kid’s interest. Its no competition, afterall. The main aim is for the kid to meet new friends and have some fun time!!

    • Nidhi

      Isn’t it ? I would concur that most parents do think that way – but classes are like temptations sprouting all around! We need absolute resolve to choose and do whats best for our children, at the end of the day 🙂