Today, having hours of free, unstructured playtime is a rare treat. Instead, kids hop in the car after school and rush off to soccer practice, piano or tutoring. On weekends, young competitive athletes often board planes and travel thousands of miles away to play against kids they’ve never met.
“In just the past 20 years, structured sports time has doubled and unstructured children’s activities have declined 50 percent,” says Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, child psychiatrist and author of “The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap.”
Many parents are busier than cruise ship directors coordinating activities and rearranging family priorities around all their kids’ enrichment activities, says Rosenfeld.
“Family time disappears and church goes away because that’s ice (hockey) time or gymnastics practice,” he says. “I don’t think enrichment activities are bad. I think they’re very helpful, actually. It’s just the overabundance of them in any one kid or family is just too much.”
In fact, a number of studies have shown that kids who participate in extracurricular activities are more likely to do well academically and socially, have a higher level of self-esteem and are less likely to take drugs or engage in risky behaviors. The key is to find the right balance for each child.
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