Is your child too busy? The problem of overscheduled children

Get ready – this one is a stonker…apparently shattered kids are ‘working’ for over 46 hours a week, according to a new report from Center Parcs.

The shock research shows that we parents are over-timetabling their children with extra-curricular activities in addition to their school commitments leading to exhausted children who are actually working harder than the average parent who only completes a 37.5 hour week at work – HOLY MOLY!

Apparently, the average child already completes 30 hours and 50 minutes a week at school Monday to Friday, as well as seven hours and 51 minutes of clubs and homework each week.

I for one seem to be caught up in this constant idea of my daughter needing to be busy – something I’m very much trying to change…and something I very much put down to #firstworldproblems –  that they must lead a rich and varied life, and be  doing stuff, but what if that’s exactly what they DON’T need because it seems very overscheduling our children is a very real problem.

Yet Channel 4 child psychologist Dr Sam Wass says, “Many parents are desperate to do the right thing for their children – we shuttle them back and forth from school, to football, to an after-school club, and then get them home and sit and ensure they do their homework.

But in fact, research suggests that it’s much more beneficial for children if their time is not always so structured. It’s the down-time, when there is not such much going on and the child has to entertain themselves, when they do their best learning.

There is a huge amount of research that suggests that this child-led, unstructured free play is vital for stimulating imagination and creativity, as well as helping the child to become more self-sufficient.”

So let’s open up the floor, let us share where we as parents stand when it comes to overscheduling, our concerns, and what we do to try to ensure overscheduling doesn’t take hold –  fellow parenting bloggers kicking off with their opinions here:

“This is a constant worry for me.  This term we’ve told my son all the after school clubs are too full so he can’t do any. He doesn’t realise it’s because we just don’t want him as miserable and tired as he was last term.  I actually feel like I lost who he is a little, because he was just so tired and not himself.  The workload is ridiculous, so additional clubs after school are draining at the age of 6!” – Mayflower Blogs 

“My 10 year old daughter is hugely overscheduled – she often has afterschool clubs and THEN ANOTHER activity later in the evening. She is a very busy young lady – but we counter this by keeping weekends clear for her to get her homework done and to chill out/relax. She wants to do all these things – nobody makes her. My 8 yr old son loves his home comforts, so does a lot less, but it’s already a nightmare to juggle everything … as a parent I am HUGELY OVERSCHEDULED by my children!!! – Kidz Cruises 

“As my son has only just started school I have stopped doing things in the weekday evenings. He is only young so needs some rest time in the evening to take in what’s happened in the day. Children need time to be children and be allowed to run wild and free.” – Nature Mum Blog  

“Mine don’t do anything other than one toddler group on a Monday morning for the littlest, and one after school club (fun activities!) at our local church for the biggest two. I would hate to be driving around and spending my life waiting for them to go from activity and club to club, and we would much rather spend the time as a family going out for a walk or exploring, or just chilling out together. My nan keeps going on trying to get me to sign them up to cubs/ice skating/swimming/horse riding etc because apparently they are deprived (haha – my kids are far from deprived!) because they don’t go to any organised activities. Couldn’t afford them all even if we wanted to anyway!” – Coffee Cake and Kids 

“This is something I really worry about. My eldest is 12 and along with school and homework, he plays for three different football teams, trains four times a week with matches at weekend. He also does boxing, cricket and athletics in the summer months as well as swimming at the weekends. I think it’s important to encourage our children to be passionate about their hobbies, and encourage them in the things they love, but I also think that children should have down time, and over scheduling can become exhausting – for the child AND the parent!! You try telling that to a twelve year old though….*sigh*…. ” – Five Little Doves

“My little girl does Brownies. She enjoys it and I like the ethos of being the best person you can be and caring for others. My little boy does golf because his friend does it and they enjoy spending time together. We also have swimming lessons. I would perhaps do one more thing if they really wanted to, but we like to do things as a family on a weekend so I try and keep those free. I think it is easy to overschedule them and it’s good to have time with nothing planned so they need to come up with imaginative games or even just do nothing! Sometimes it’s nice to just do nothing.” – Yorkshire Wonders 

“This is definitely something we worry about and have put a lot of thought into. As a child I did gymnastics, ballet, tap, modern dance, theatre, horse riding, karate, swimming, Spanish and nature club. Whilst i did enjoy them and learnt a lot what i most remember is always missing out on sleepovers and birthday parties because i always had a class or a class the next day. Lily did a term if swimming lessons, then a term of gymnastics and has now swapped to a term of ballet – all Saturday pm activities. She is now asking for art lessons but there aren’t many for kids around so will look into that for next term. I don’t want her to feel overloaded with things she has to do – there will be a whole adult life ahead of her for that!” – Better Together Home 

“My son does Beavers on a Monday. I’d love him to go back to swimming lessons but doesn’t look likely and weekends are family time. In my opinion that’s more than enough. I personally think a 7 year old needs down time and doesn’t need to be full on from morning to night every single day.” – Over 40 and Mum to One

“My daughter started school in Sep. She had four evenings of after school activities (they were all ongoing prior to starting school as at that point I felt she needed the stimulation and activity) I soon reduced that down to 2 and really tried to make sure those were the ones she wanted to do. We keep weekends free at mo so that is the time for family/chillout/days out etc. They def need down time. It is so easy to over schedule them! ” – Talking Mums

“Two years ago we didn’t have a free night in the week due to the number of clubs the boys were going to. Although they didn’t like it, due to the cost and my sanity, we decided to cut back. It has been such a great thing to do. They still have a club or two, but they have been forced to choose which they want to do the most. As a family we are much happier now we do less.” – A Strong Coffee To Go

“My children are 6 and 9 and both have quite a heavy schedule already and I do worry about it, especially the older they get as each club or organisation they are a member of then start to have outside commitments too such as community projects with Cubs and competitions with dance. Two of my sons clubs are seasonal so only on during the summer months, which works out well at the moment but I will certainly be reviewing his commitments with him when he starts High School next year.” – My Mummys Pennies 

“I had managed to have 2 afternoons free, but as the end of January, my 8 year old will be doing: Taeqwondo Mondays and Fridays, football training on Tuesday, Arabic reading on Wednesday and Thursday, piano lesson on Saturday and football game on Sunday. I know that some of these things are about 40 minutes long (Arabic and piano), but he’s busy every single day of the week. And with 2 younger children that have to go with, it’s not right or fair on them! It’s not how I want it, but he loves his football, wants to try Taekwondo with his younger brother and cousins, and Arabic is a non-negotiable from my husband. I want to give him opportunities, but I think doing so much is ridiculous!” – Mind Your Mama 

“We limit our kids to two things each, partly for financial reasons and also because I found they were becoming so tired and grumpy it was a nightmare getting them where they needed to be. With three of them doing things at different times it got very busy! Now we have them doing clubs on the same day at the same time it’s all a lot easier and stress free.” – Mummy Is A Gadget Geek 

“We’ve cut back on activities recently because it felt like too much. We now only have 2 after school sessions a week, but I know lots of children who are doing things every night and sometimes multiple activities each day. My son gets tired and complains if he doesn’t get enough free time at home to do his own thing.” – 92 Three 30  

Do you worry about your child being overscheduled? Do leave a comment and join the discussion below.

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  1. I really agree with the sentiment here. We continued with Tigs 2 existing activities when she started school, but I have to admit those days are hard work for everyone. Rushing around, quick dinners and back out… I feel exhausted and I haven’t been to school all day! I’ve definitely resisted signing up to anything else so the 5 other days are blissfully free. It makes us all appreciate that time even more too. All about balance I guess…

  2. I can’t believe how much kids work but thinking back to secondary school this sounds about right. With homework, exams to prepare for, tests and coursework there’s a lot which happens outside of school x

  3. This is a really good subject – and a great round up of opinions. It is a big issue for parents. We are told that our kids need extra-curricular activities and yet it is esay to get over-loaded.

  4. I never really thought of this before. My son comes home for school and I rush him out the door to get his running done before it gets dark too. He always falls to sleep when I make his tea.

  5. This is really interesting. We have made an effort to ensure that my daughter has time to just be. She goes to nursery 4 mornings a week now and then she goes ice skating on a Saturday morning with her daddy and swimming most weeks on a Sunday afternoon but other than that nothing scheduled. I am sure this will change when she gets older and wants to do more stuff though

    • I know right?! My sons are so busy. It’s a tough balance. You want to keep them away from horrible things like drugs by being busy with positive things, but now we have to work about being too busy.

  6. Pickle has only just started full time school and is too young for homework or clubs. He is shattered! My older children were very busy in school but didn’t really do many clubs. Kaz x

  7. Completely agree, way too much helicoptering going on, free time and the luxury of being bored to stimulate the mind and get a bit of imaginative play going!

  8. I so agree! J used to do two karate sessions and two swimming sessions per week along with a computer club, in total five activities a week which is way too much. He now does one karate and one swimming session per week.

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