How many are too many after school activities?

After-school activities play an important role in helping children to develop skills and abilities through sports and arts. For children who have difficulties in school, these activities can also allow them to develop self-esteem as well as to gain the esteem of their peers. Leisure and recreational activities can also help children to learn valuable social skills and expose them to new situations where authority, structure, rules, team play and group interaction are used to achieve different goals outside of a school environment, and can sometimes have the added benefit of introducing your child to physical fitness. 
In deciding on which after-school activities are best for your children, Dr Maria Sufrategui, psychologist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital, has the following tips for parents:
  • Choose well and be selective. The best way to determine what activity will be enjoyable for your child is to pick according to your child’s interests and skills. “Consider the age, the amount of homework and the needs of each child,” says Dr. Sufrategui. School and family time should come first.
  • Know how much time is required.  “It is important that the after-school activities fit into the child’s and the family’s routine – not the other way around,” says Dr. Sufrategui. It is also important to respect the time at which the child should go to bed in order to ensure that he/she gets enough sleep.” 
  • Consider the importance of down time. Every child should have some time for himself or herself; a chance to relax, reflect on the day, or just do nothing.
  • Focus on balance. Create family time and try to focus on a balancing activities for all of your children – and for yourself. “When there are too many planned activities, the level of stress increases for all family members and the family is deprived of time for spontaneous activities together,” explains Dr. Sufrategui. The dangers of having too many activities include lack of sleep and increased family conflicts which can degenerate into more serious social problems. “It is important to remember that the objective of after school activities is to decrease stress and to allow for interaction and fun learning opportunities”, concludes Dr. Sufrategui.
  • Stay organized: Keep a calendar and display it on the refrigerator or other prominent spot in the house so that everybody can stay up-to-date. And if you find an empty space on the calendar, leave it alone!
  • Go with the flow: Sometimes taking the opportunity to hang out on a beautiful day is more important than going to one more activity, even if you've already paid for it. If your child is showing a lack of interest in an activity or is having a hard time keeping up, consider an alternative. After all, the goal should be to have fun!
  • Know when to say no: If your child is already doing a lot but really wants to take on another activity, discuss what other activity or activities need to be dropped to make room for the new one.
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