When our three boys were 6, 8, and 10, we had them signed up to play T-ball, baseball, and soccer, as well as piano lessons and Cub Scouts. Every day after school, we were loading them up in the minivan and taking them to practices, lessons, or meetings, rushing through homework, chores, and frequently getting fast food to eat. Family dinners had become a rare occasion and unstructured playtime was a thing of the past. Every Saturday was devoted to attending three different games, sometimes having to split up to have family representation, because two games were happening simultaneously. After one particularly hectic day, we sat down to have a talk with our boys.
“Just how much do you want to play soccer (the current sport)?” They all answered that they wanted to continue. “The cost to sign up is $50 each, plus uniforms, shin-guards and soccer shoes. Would you be willing to do extra work around the house and in the yard to earn the money to pay for this?” Two of our boys quickly answered in the negative. “I don’t want to play that much!” My first thought was, “Then why have we been doing this?” Only the youngest said that he would be willing to work because he really loved the sport. The other two gave up all sports, and never expressed any regrets. In fact, they both told me later that they really enjoyed having time to just relax, play in the backyard, or read a book.
As parents, we want the best for our children and we want to give them the opportunity to try new things, build new skills, and experience as many aspects of life as possible. We sign them up for dance, music lessons, drama, gymnastics, sports, art, and whatever else is offered. However, children need time to just play, to use their imaginations, or even to do nothing. According to http://kidshealth.org:
“Sooner or later, kids who are too busy will begin to show signs. Every child is different, but overscheduled kids may:
- feel tired, anxious, or depressed
- complain of headaches and stomachaches, which may be due to stress, missed meals, or lack of sleep
- fall behind on their schoolwork, causing their grades to drop”
So before we schedule our children for multiple activities, just because their friends are all doing it or because we think it is good for them, why not first schedule in some play time and some family time. Being able to just relax a little and spend time with our families is more important than any soccer game.