Children require structure and routine to feel safe, build character, and promote responsible behavior. Although the benefits of structure cannot be denied, is there such a thing as too much structure? Should there be a limit on the number of extracurricular activities a child should participate in?
Children should be encouraged to try new activities and ideas. Mastering a new activity creates self-confidence, and boost self-perception. If this is true then structured activities should be a great idea. When we over schedule children in structured activities we limit their autonomy in creating ideas, problem solving, and making decisions. We also reduce their ability to initiate tasks independently. These are critical skills that children will need as they become adults. The right balance of free time and structured activities helps to promote executive functioning skills. Executive functioning skills may include planning, organizing, and creating solutions to problems.
What can parents do?
Assess the balance. Does your child have an adequate balance between structured activities and free time? Does this balance include academics, time spent with family and friends (outside of the structured activity), free and structured time?
Listen to your child. Listen to the concerns your child may raise about things that are going well with the structured activity as well as any dislikes. It may be time to reassess the balance particularly if their interest has waned or other areas are falling behind.
Make room for downtime or free time. This is important in fostering creativity and may reduce the “I’m bored,” conversation over time. As the child has free time, he or she has to make decisions about how to spend that time. Hobbies and special interest may generate from this time.
Priscilla Wright is a licensed professional counselor practicing at Commonwealth Behavioral Health Inc. located in Midlothian, Virginia. Ms. Wright holds a master’s degree in Counselor Education and is currently completing a doctorate in Counseling Psychology. Ms. Wright is also a National Certified Counselor. AtCommonwealth Behavioral Health Inc., Ms. Wright works with children, adolescents, and adults on issues to include stress management, co-parenting, as well as anxiety and mood disorders. Ms. Wright believes in a holistic (looking at the person as a whole) approach to practice. Ms. Wright’s research interest includes topics on intellectual disabilities, stress management, and topics regarding family systems.