I have always been aware, and sometimes concerned, over the last 20 years about the amount of activities after school that children are participating in.
I think a lot of parents often feel pressure to involve their children in a lot of the activities that their friends’ children are involved in. My question for all parents is to really think how many activities are really healthy for your child. Take into consideration the long hours spent in school, then they always have homework, and hopefully, you’re teaching your child responsibilities within the home.
It is best to let your child take the lead and participate in one or two activities that they truly enjoy. It is also important to teach your child to follow through with commitments. Unstructured playtime every day and down time is essential for creativity, as well as for the mind and body to rest. Over scheduling can interfere with down time, study time, and the hours of sleep that children need each night.
Kindergartener’s—Keep their after-school life simple and free. You should wait until they have adjusted to their daily school routine. Play dates at homes are considered after school activities at this age, as they will be learning to socialize one on one. They will learn to share and compromise etc.
1st graders—Balance their schedule with play dates, and one or two days of an after-school activity per week. Noncompetitive sports and other physical activities are best at this stage since this is around the age when your child is starting to get a grip on the abilities of her own body. Plus, after being in school all day, she needs an outlet to play and run.
Second graders—Get your child involved in choosing extracurricular activities. This is usually the age they start to vocalize what they want to do. Make sure your child has at least one or two days free a week for alone time, which is when they are starting to need to unwind.
Third graders—After sitting all day in a classroom, a child needs to move and socialize after school. Team sports are a great choice — now they are old enough to remember and follow rules and can handle losing, although they are still not ready for anything ultra-competitive. Other good choices are activities that use and develop fine motor skills.
Fourth graders—Try to get them involved in one or two extracurricular activities that they are good at and love doing. It will build confidence and help your child manage stress, which is key at this age when cliques and social pressure in school are beginning to build. Remember this is the time homework piles up.
Fifth graders—Over-scheduling is a problem you and your child will probably face this year. Your fifth grader is full of energy for everything and wants to spend all his time participating in activities and hanging out with friends. Try to have one night a week eating dinner together so they remember that family is a priority.
(Adele-Bruce Smith graduated from Cambridge University in Great Britain, trained as an English Nanny with a Child Psychology degree, and is a qualified mediator. She has volunteered with CASA in St. Tammany for seven years, as a court advocate for abused and neglected children. E-MAIL Adele with questions about raising children to firstname.lastname@example.org. )