Spring has sprung, a sure sign that calendars are filling up with warm-weather activities. Experts say keeping kids busy is important, but too much of a good thing can burn out even active children.
Psychotherapist and author Dr. Erin Leonard says signs that kids are too busy include: fatigue, appetite changes, irritability, and no longer enjoying an activity.
“It becomes a problem when it interferes with the child’s ability to engage in self-directed, creative play,” said Dr. Leonard. “Research supports that self-directed, creative play is the single most important activity kids can engage in because it really fosters developmental growth on all levels, including neurological and cognitive.”
If a child is overscheduled, it can eliminate time just to be a kid. That’s why mom-of-two Elizabeth Cichowicz says she encourages her daughter, Emma, to be active but helps her pick and choose what to get involved in.
Another area parent, David Beem, has similar concerns but says he wants to make sure his child can participate in activities that will benefit him for a lifetime. Max, a 5-year-old kindergartner, is currently involved in taekwondo and swimming.
“It’s easier if you start young and you’re always doing something,” said Beem. “Taekwondo is good for teaching him respect, and if you find a good teacher, it promotes good values. Be a buddy, not a bully, so that was what drew us to the taekwondo thing.”
Dr. Leonard says to avoid overscheduling, which can burn a child out on lifelong activities and even lead to anxiety and stress, allow a child to guide what they want to do. In Emma’s case, she’ll have to choose between tee-ball and soccer this summer.
“I just think it’s important to find something that they love, to realize when they’re growing up that being active is fun. I just want them to have it for not only physical health but to have an outlet,” said Cichowicz.
Read Dr. Leonard’s new book Emotional Terrorism: Breaking the Chains of A Toxic Relationship.