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Extracurricular Activities

We want our children to grow to be well-rounded adults, so we enroll them in ballet, soccer, piano and swim lessons at an early age. But while physical activity and teamwork are important to a child's physical, mental, and emotional growth, how do you know when all the extracurricular activities are too much?

You can start by observing the following:

  • Does your child complain about the activities?
  • Is your child having difficulty sleeping or complaining of being tired?
  • For older children, have grades dropped?
  • Does your child seem anxious?
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, it might be time to reevaluate the level of your child's extracurricular activities.

Children grow and mature at different rates. While there are obvious benefits to any physical activity or learning opportunity, most children are not ready for organized team sports until they are about six years old, when they are better able to follow directions and understand the concept of team work. Prior to this, children can stay active and healthy through unstructured "free play." Try out one activity at a time, and work with your child to find activities that he or she enjoys.

A child shouldn't be pushed into a sport or activity, and doing so can have a negative impact on self esteem. Add activities gradually when your child seems physically and emotionally ready to handle them.

Most important, allow your child time to be a kid.