Everything in Moderation
Ah, the lazy, crazy days of summer. It is odd how I find myself always going, going, going everyday this summer… yet it feels different in flip-flops. Easier, more relaxed, more carefree. I am beginning to understand that contradiction – lazy, crazy – and it’s a wisdom that has been bestowed on me now that I am a parent.
Swimming – lots of swimming, bike riding, catching frogs in the stream, attending great community events such as musical performances or local festivals, visiting farms, attending birthday parties and more birthday parties, family celebrations, museums, play dates, running through sprinklers and playing in the sand. Each day, this summer has brought improvisation to our schedule, and an energy that has revitalized all of us in a way very different from our busy schedules during the school year. So as September looms ever so near with each passing day, my shoulders rise up a bit when I start to think about our schedule.
SCHEDULE. That dreaded word. My mind starts to race: Mac is in preschool three days, Avery two days. She loves music. He loves soccer. Oh, but what about those story times? Playgroup? And the gymnastics too – can they both enroll at the same time? Friday is wide open – how will we ever fill the time?? AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
Stop. Take a breath. They’re only 2- and 4-years old. Their energy astounds me. But I try not to overestimate it. I try not to OVERSCHEDULE them. So what next? Some research about finding balance in my children’s schedule. Yes, as insane as it sounds, I – a founder of a family activities website – am going to seek and share wisdom about keeping moderation in your family activity life.
I sought the advice of a friend and well-respected Pediatric Psychologist, Dr. Rachel Kramer of Concord – a mother of three who bestows incredibly sound, valuable parenting advice. Dr. Kramer referred me to a great Psychology Today article by David Elkins, published in early 2003 called “The Overbooked Child”. Now let me tell ya, Mr. Elkins is not referring to reading too many books when he uses the term “overbooked”. He is referring to the over enrollment of our children in too many extracurricular activities. This article was written seven years ago, yet it could have been written seven minutes ago. It’s as applicable, if not more applicable, today as we see how competitive and busy our society has become.
When I asked Dr. Kramer for some key takeaways and additional thoughts for various age groups, she said this:
- The ‘right’ balance of structured and unstructured activities will vary from child to child, parent to parent, and family to family, so one of the most important (and challenging) things to do is to know your child and carefully consider how much is just right, and how much is too much, for your particular child, and family, during the upcoming school year.
- Structured activities and classes can provide enjoyment as well as a wonderful opportunity for children to develop a sense of mastery. Keep in mind that children also derive incredible benefits from engaging in self-directed play. Time spent playing pretend helps a child develop imagination and creativity, gain self-awareness, and learn to solve problems and function independently in the world.
- Children love to explore the world with their families. Remember to balance activities that include the whole family with activities for each individual child.
- A few age-by-age thoughts:
- Infants and children are enriched by exploring the world through play. Activities and classes shared with a parent or caretaker can be a wonderful way to explore the world together as well as a great opportunity to connect with other parents. Just keep in mind that very young children need plenty of unstructured time to discover, explore materials with their senses, and create.
- Parents of preschoolers and early elementary children might consider starting the fall with a couple of activities in place. Once the school year is underway and children have adjusted to the new routine, parents can plan to re-evaluate and determine whether the balance feels right. As young children adjust to the pace of school, they may be ready to add another activity to the mix, particularly once the cold weather arrives and there are fewer opportunities to play outdoors.
- Parents of children in middle school should involve their children in decision-making about activities while continuing to establish limits and boundaries to help children make good choices. At this age, parents often need to be explicit about family priorities regarding education and homework.
I hope you found this helpful in your quest for balance, moderation and togetherness in your ACTIVE family lives. Here at Ziptivity, it is our job to give you options for family activities. But remember, you don’t have to sign up for all of them!