Should your child go out for football practice when it's 5 days a week? Aren't 3 days enough? It's common for parents to be a little confused when it comes to deciding how much is too much with reference to after school activities. Many think that since most of these activities are 'fun' (as opposed to in-school studies), children will simply lap up these classes. But, too much of this 'fun' can also make a child burned out or sick. Here's a simple guide that will help you decide how much is too much for your child.
Kindergarten Your child is just beginning to learn to interact and get used to discipline. Her after-school life should be simple and carefree. One or two classes per week are plenty to start with.
Try a trip to the library or your favorite book store for a weekly reading circle. Once she settles down, you can look for more challenging activities like a music or art program. Grade 1 One or two activities per week, including play dates and playground visits are recommended. Avoid competitive sports activities at this point.
Your son is still too young to have to worry about winning and losing. After the rigors of a full day at school, he needs a healthy outlet for pent up energy. Physical activities and non-competitive sports are best for this age group.
Grade 2 Your child is old enough to voice opinions on what activities he wants. Sports, skating, swimming or computers - steer him towards things he likes or shows an aptitude for. Many children begin lessons on a musical instrument around this age. Don't forget to allow your child some 'alone time' during which he can unwind and just do whatever he wishes.
Grade 3 Socialization begins to take center stage. Team sports are a great choice. Developing motor skills, painting, drawing, and dance are good too.
Let your child explore her areas of interest. Make sure to leave aside enough time for family oriented and fun activities. Grade 4 At this age, your child will tell you clearly what he likes and what he doesn't. Get him involved in activities that will boost his confidence. This will also help him manage stress as this is the time when social pressure is beginning to build.
And, beware of the homework demon! Your son will now need more time with his studies. Balancing his schoolwork with other activities is very important. Grade 5 The fifth grader is bubbling with energy and will want to do just about everything.
And she may conveniently push her studies into the background. So, close parental supervision is needed to keep activities and schoolwork in balance. Keep one or two days free for family time and other activities. Now can be a great time to get your child interested in community service.
Middle school Steer him away from TV and mindless computer games! Get him engaged in activities that reinforce learning. Academic performance can be improved by encouraging your preteen to join clubs like the Girl or Boy Scouts program, foreign language clubs, chess clubs, debating, school newspaper, etc. Up to 20 hours a week of extra curricular activities should be more than enough (and not too much) for most middle schoolers. Just keep an eye out for signs of burnout, and slow him down if you sense it coming. What you select for your child and how long he should work at it is basically decided by your child's temperament.
As the parent, closely observe him and base your decisions on feedback from your child himself. There's a balance between what works for your child and what is too much at each age and stage. And remember, each child is an individual - what's good for his best friend may or may not be the right mix for your child.
Karen Fusco is the co-author of "Busy Moms: The Heart and Soul of a Home", an ebook filled with time-saving and stress-reducing tips and ideas to help build a stronger home, a stronger family and a stronger you. Karen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.