Answers to Overscheduling

Calendar and to do lists hanging on refrigerator

Parenting often involves scheduling. It’s your own schedule, it’s their school and activities schedule, their playdates and homework or screen time. It is a lot to juggle.

  • Get a Master Calendar – We have a desk size calendar on our dining room table and have each year since our oldest was six. It has our work schedules, school events, parties, weekend plans and vacations. For a while it had playdates then homework hours. The kids chore chart is right beside the calendar.
  • An hour a day of downtime – If your family’s schedule always seems full, an hour of downtime a day, every day may be the first thing to put on the calendar. Downtime for children is truly unstructured, go play time. It is not time on screens and not full of activities that you provide. It’s a time for them to make their own plans. Ideally, it’s a full hour at a time, also okay to break it up when you have to.
  • Consider limits – There are so many pulls on our time. It can be helpful to at least consider limits on screen time, set times for homework (even if it varies throughout the week, at least it’s on the calendar), 20 minutes of reading and 20 minutes of being read to daily.

General guidelines – These are all for starters, meaning a good place to start and then a child may be able to handle more or need to shift to less.

  • In Preschool – In the preschool years, consider only scheduling something fixed on days off. If your child is in three days a week may be plan for two or three activities on the days off. Five full days, plan for just one other on Saturdays.
  • Starting Kindergarten – The transition to Kindergarten can be exhausting for children. It is a fast paced, academic environment with little downtime or rest. It may be helpful to lay low on other structured activities for the first month or two of Kindergarten.
  • In Elementary School – Plan for school plus two structured activities at a time. I am sure there are children who can handle far more and some that school is plenty. Two would men piano and soccer or boy scouts and swimming. It may be helpful to place these on Monday and Tuesday when they are more rested from the weekend or on the weekend when the rest of the day is relaxed.
  • In Middle School – Plan for school plus three structured activities at a time. Also plan for one major and two minor at a time. Major would be a school sport or lead in a school play. These types of activities may meet four or five days a week.
  • Go for variety – For my own children, I encourage them to participate in something athletic and something musical at any given time. I’ve let them pick the instruments and sports, just encouraged them to go broad and try new things often. The AAP suggests children not specialize in a year round sport until at least twelve years old.

Answers

  • Have a mission statement – When signing up for something, at least consider why you are enrolling and what you hope you or your child gets out of it.
  • Have the child help decide on activities – By about six or seven years old, I’d ask and take their answers in to account. For sure when they start in the school band, they should pick the instrument. When they register for high school classes, they should have at least half the say.
  • Also fine to have a few givens – In my house, every one learns to swim. The option may be different in your house. Maybe it’s foreign language classes to be able to communicate with extended family. It is okay to decide some of this for them as well.
  • Make family time a priority – It may be helpful to put this on the calendar as well. Goals might include whole family time, doing something all together at least once a week. Couples time, a date night (even if it’s at home in front of the TV) at least twice a month. Individual pairs in the family, at least once a month.
  • Resist judging them at every turn – Children aren’t supposed to be good at anything. If they join the swim team focus on enjoying the meets and asking questions to learn about their experience. Focus on their effort and process more than outcomes.
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