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Extracurricular Activities: How Much Is Too Much?

When your kids need to schedule sleep, maybe it has gone too far.

With the start of the school year, kids reconnect with friends, open up unmarked notebooks crisp with possibility and decide what activities they will be participating in this fall.

There is mounting pressure for high school students to have a robust list of extra curricular activities when applying to college since it is not just about your SAT scores or your GPA. This makes for many busy teenagers.

High school students are not the only kids debating busy schedules in Madison and Chatham. Parents of children in lower grades and even preschool feel pressure to test their children's interests by letting them try everything from tae kwon do to music lessons or gymnastics and hockey.

With so many extra curricular options in Madison and Chatham, how does this generation of parents, who have well-meaning high expectations for their children, keep their kids' lives balanced?

There is no doubt that extra curricular activities are very important to the growth of kids. Children learn about teamwork and can develop life-long friendships. Sports-related activities are critical for teaching our kids how to keep their bodies physically fit.

Many extracurricular activities require an important level of commitment and creative thinking, both of which are vital lessons for a child's future. All of these activities provide our children with the tools to become well rounded, functioning adults in the future. Check out a list of the benefits of extracurricular activities by KidsHealth.org.

While there are many benefits to being involved in extra curricular activities, kids and parents need to know when to draw the line. Being involved in too many activities can force kids to spread themselves too thin.

Grades can suffer if homework and studying get pushed off due to practice running late. Kids can be more prone to sickness when they over-extend themselves while eating on the run or not getting enough sleep.

At this juncture, both parents and children can learn a valuable lesson; you must make decisions in life. While you find yourself at the crossroads of possibilities for your kids, doing it all will only end up causing them frustration.

Making a decision to focus on one or two priorities allows children to give those activities proper focus. Maybe your child will decide that one activity is not for them but at least they gave it their full attention in order to make an informed decision to move onto the next thing.

As parents today, we are lucky to have this problem of so many options for our children and we should all be grateful that there are so many kids who are eager to participate. Maybe by trying to keep everything in moderation, we can help lead our kids to better decision-making and direction in the future.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, "So be sure when you step. Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act....And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) Kid, you’ll move mountains!"

Interested in what activities are appropriate for your children based on their age? Take a look at Scholastic's Extra-curricular activities by grade.

Chatham and Madison Parents—As always, Patch wants to know: With the abundance of activities in our area available to children, how do you help your kids choose which are best for them? Do you ever find yourself at the mercy of your children's extra curricular schedule so they can do it all? How much is too much?

Colleen Bohensky September 14, 2011 at 03:02 PM
Since my kids are so young... we've been trying a little of everything (mostly to find out what the girls actually like). I try not to do TOO many things... since it gets to be too much for them, and too much for me to juggle. Zoe (1st grade) is doing Daisies now (littlest Girl Scouts) and she decided she wanted to try basketball at the Y. (She was not a fan of soccer... so after giving it a fair try we're moving on). She was also EXTREMELY insterested in the afterschool science class so we're giving that a try. My preschooler is just taking swimming lessons this session... although we might add another weekly Y class.
Elizabeth McConnell September 15, 2011 at 11:13 PM
We are down to Karate for everyone twice a week. I know we should do town sports and we will try to do basketball or softball/baseball, but with four kids it quickly becomes very complicated to get everyone to the right place on time. Throw in the kid who doesn't want to do it and I'm done! But I feel like I am failing as a mother -- what if I'm supressing the next star pitcher or piano maestro because I'm too frazzled?

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