I read all over that kids like routine but how can you tell if they are "over scheduled"? But I also read it is good to take your kids out and "explore". I have lately been taking my child to story time at various libraries. I don't want to "over schedule" her but for my sanity as well, it is good to get out of the house. I am planning a lot of weekend excursions (zoo, parks, festivals) so the thought crept into my head.

School days, when I think about it, are pretty long days, 5 days a week so it makes me think that kids can handle a pretty rigorous schedule. Do the rules/guidelines/old wives' tales change for younger kids (I.e. toddlers and kids under 4) who have less of an attention span?

  • What do you mean by "over-scheduled"? Do you mean that they have too many things in their schedule or that they are forced to stick too closely to a schedule? – Dave Clarke Sep 29 '12 at 16:47
  • Too many events scheduled. Outings vs. Free Play (playgrounds, alone time). I am afraid of burning her out with too much stimulation. Is that possible? – Rhea Sep 30 '12 at 1:32

You're talking about a child that is too young for school? You can't really compare what they can handle to that of someone in school. There are HUGE developmental milestones in between. Toddlers can't handle 5 hours of anything (except sleep if you're lucky :) )

That being said, taking your little one on outings is awesome. The Zoo, library, museums, parks, etc are all full of lots to see and do. I think overscheduling refers to when kids are so busy they don't have time to rest or connect with family. The time you invest in building a relationship now, before they reach preteen-hood, is the best thing you can do. It's a problem when the only time kids and parents spend together is driving from one activity to the next. Inside or outside the home is fine, but make sure you are getting uninterrupted connecting/bonding time. Let your child lead when you play at home and follow their lead with trucks, blocks, etc. This helps them develop.

A second issue is that overscheduling also interferes with a child's opportunity for sleep and have unstructured imaginative play time. This two are both absolutely critical for your child's development (socially, academically, emotionally, etc) and must be ensured.

If you are spending quality time with your child, and they are getting enough sleep and lots of free-play time, then you're probably fine. Just watch out for if they are unhappy, stressed, etc about any activities.

But, again, I think this issue applies mostly to older kids and extra-curriculars.

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  • I totally agree with this statement, but would simply add that in my experience, "get out and explore" often means outdoor free-play as opposed to out-door structured play. Imaginative indoor AND outdoor play, or "free-play" time are both critical. – balanced mama Oct 29 '12 at 22:20
  • for sure, but this author was worried about taking the child out at all! – Christine Gordon Oct 30 '12 at 2:37
  • I'm sorry. The comment is just to add one more piece of info to what you were saying. I was thinking of the questioner and future viewers benefit. I thought your answer was awesome and voted for it. – balanced mama Oct 30 '12 at 4:02
  • No, that's a good point balanced mama, and something for me to consider in future. – Christine Gordon Oct 30 '12 at 21:23

The signs would be that the child is not happy with the number of activities or is not doing as well as they should do due to lack of time or energy.

In the end, the child should be able to do as many activities as they want subject to:

  • the child wanting to do them

  • the parents being willing to pay for them

  • the parents willing to drive them around

  • it not affecting the time of their siblings

  • it not affecting their school work

Our daughter does basketball, karate and language school. We chose basketball to teach her team spots and karate to teach her discipline. As parents, we are the limiting factor. She'd also like to do music but we have no time for that.

One of our friends' kid was doing 6 activities a week and loved every one of them.

An other does two (football and basketball) and is great at both (potential professional) but will have to choose between them since at his level he needs concentrate on one to be his best.

I think some people (especially the media) overstate the effects of over scheduling. I wish my parents had provided more after-school activities back in the day.

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  • I would add to that list - they are still getting all of their chores, homework and REST! – balanced mama Oct 29 '12 at 22:16
  • Yeah I second "rest" as many kids, especially middle school girls, will go to crazy lengths to ensure their schoolwork doesn't suffer, and sleep is usually the first to go when it should be the first priority above all else, speaking from a (mental) health perspective. (I'm not a doctor, I'm just concerned about our childrens' collective health!). – Christine Gordon Oct 30 '12 at 21:25

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