EXPERT Q&A

How much structure is too much structure for kids?

Parents and caregivers often wonder how much to structure their children’s day. CareNectar expert Martha Tyler provides guidance on checking in with children to make sure their scheduled activities are keeping them happy and healthy!

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Question

We want our children to be well-rounded, social, and active. We encourage them to get involved in sports and extracurricular activities, but we also don’t want to over-schedule them. Any ideas for where we should draw the line? How much structure is good for children, and when should we give them a break?

Answer

Great question. This is such a tricky line to walk and you are in excellent company with most other parents and caregivers out there!

When it comes to extracurricular activities, less is actually more. Are your children excited to go to their activities? Are you getting into power struggles when it’s time to go to a specific activity? Or do your kids seem exhausted all the time? If your kids are excited to go to their activities, you’re making it out of the door with little to no trouble, and your kids are well-rested, then activity on! But, if your kids (or you) seem overwhelmed going from activity to activity, it might be a good idea to cut back.

You know your kids and you know your family. If they are enjoying all of their activities equally, then it’s fine. But if they are always dragging their feet when it’s time for dance, it may not be bringing them much joy. It is worth an investigation by checking in with your kid at the very least. You can ask, “Hey, I noticed that you seem to not be enjoying dance as much lately. Can you help me understand? I am not mad, I really want to know what your experience is!”

It’s also a good idea to check in with yourself on why you signed your child up for a specific activity. Was it something you always wanted to do as a child? Or was it something that your child asked to do? Sometimes parents and caregivers can accidentally put pressure on kids to enjoy an activity that they themselves wish they had done as a child. If you find that to be the case, ask your child if they want to continue. Make sure the activity is something your child wants to do!

Additionally, some parents make a rule that a child must finish a season of sports or an 8-week course before dropping it and moving on. This can be helpful to show kids that they must consider carefully before quitting.

In conclusion, if your children seem excited to go to activities and rested enough to do them, go for the activities they are interested in! If you’re struggling with feeling busy all the time and they don’t have much time to simply play in an unstructured way, then it might be a good idea to drop a few activities! Be sure to talk with your children as you decide which activities they may want to take up or drop—they’ll be happy to be part of the conversation.

Thanks for the question, and remember, the CareNectar team of experts is here to help you with additional questions!

Meet The Expert


Martha Tyler

Martha has her Masters in Education and is a certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. She has worked as a sitter, nanny, tutor, or teaching artist over the past 20+ years. In addition, Martha has hosted a child care podcast, Chronicles of Nannya, for several years. She is also the co-founder of Compassionate Childcare LLC and is thrilled to be able to share her experience, knowledge, and resources with CareNectar!