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How many activities should my child have?

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

Choosing activities for your kids

Here's a quick guide to activities for kids of all ages, including recommendations on what different age groups can handle.

Choosing activities for your kids

Activities become a hot subject when kids are in school. Parents compare their kids' social calendars like they are badges of honor, trading agenda items of gymnastics for soccer and swim lessons. But really, activities are about the kids -- exposing them to new things and allowing them to learn skills they will cherish and love.

But when it comes to activities, is there a such thing as too much?

What to consider

Choosing activities for your child can seem like a Herculean task. There are so many options and they all seem like such a great idea. But your kids can't do everything, even when you think they'd enjoy it all (or you'd like them to). You have to be discerning.

Shnieka L. Johnson, a consultant, says that you need to treat your child as the individual they are, so that they don't become overwhelmed. "You should definitely start small with very young children (preschool to primary). Introduce children to socialization, structure and even competition. However, go easy on the scheduling [and] make sure to treat family time and time at home as a priority too," says Johnson.

For older children, Johnson advises considering how activities can round out their resume for college. "Please do not be confused -- a well-rounded child and an overbooked child are very different things. By this age, they can fully make their parent(s) aware of when their schedule is too full," says Johnson.

>> How to stop hyper-parenting and just relax with your kids

A magic number?

Just how many activities should your child have? While there is no magic number for any age, it really comes down to not overscheduling. Kids should have time for play and homework without being overwhelmed.

Choosing activities for your kids "Overall, I would say the younger, preschool children should participate in one or two activities per day...something they really enjoy once they come home from camp or school. As the kids get older, you have to take into account school work, as sometimes this may take a child away from activity time," says Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit

But you should also consider personality, experts say. "Yes, less activities for younger kids, but also each child is different. The ability to handle activities is not an age issue as much it is a personality issue," says Dr. Renee Clauselle of psychologists4kids.com.

Saunders offered a few tips for selecting activities:

  • Pick age/skill appropriate activities for your children. This makes it more interesting and less exhausting.
  • Pick something they will have a high degree of success doing.
  • Pick something they can do with friends.
  • Teach them to compete only with themselves.
  • Talk to them about their activities. Listen to the cues they give you about participation. If they are not enjoying an activity, it could take away excitement about other activities they do like.
  • Monitor their fatigue levels.
  • Make sure with all their activities, they are getting some 'me' time.

More on activities for kids

Family activities your toddler will love
Super Moms Guide to fun family activities
Family fun weekend activities


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