Kids' schedules these days seem like a cross between a superhero's to-do list and the president of a small nation's planner:
- 6:30 Wake Up
- 7:00 Shower and Breakfast
- 7:15 Swing by the store to pick up some last minute project supplies
- 7:50-2:30 School
- 2:30 Art Lessons
- 3:30 Yoga Kids
- 4:30 Guitar Class
- 5:30 Soccer Game
- 7:30 Dinner
- 8- 10 Homework
It seems like in order to compete in the modern college application culture, kids need to start their dozens of extracurricular activities from the time they're in early elementary school.
We all want our kids to be "well-rounded," but it's hard not to look at your 11 year old having a meltdown over how busy she is and not think that something must be a little wrong here.
Do you ever wonder how to help your kids be comprehensive without making them too busy to discover what they really like?
We've come up with a few ideas to help you help your kid find their passion, be comprehensive, and fight overwhelm.
- Inertia is a Property of Matter
I can't tell you how many times kids and young people continue some activity just because they've been doing it for a long time. By the time I was 15 I had racked up eleven years and thousands of hours playing softball. The thing was- I hated softball! I just kept doing it because of inertia; I had already played softball for so long that I felt like I had to continue because I had sacrificed so much to become an excellent softball player. Take the time to check in with their kid if they still enjoy and feel passionate about that extracurricular activity that they've been doing for awhile. Many times kids feel pressure to continue something just to keep the status quo.
- Allow for Unstructured Free Play
As kids are shuttled all around the city from activity to activity, they begin to dull one of the most important abilities of all: creativity. In the book, Creating Innovators, Tony Wagner discusses the importance of unstructured free play in developing the essential skills and experiences of a creative innovator. During unstructured free play kids don't have to follow any schedules or orders from adults and in the process they learn to entertain and occupy their own time. Even better if the unstructured free time can be in nature, in a place where they can tinker with materials, or with a good book.
- Get Bored, then Get Interested
Sometimes in order to find what you're interested in, you need to start with a clean slate. Kids these days are constantly distracted and overstimulated. Allow the freedom in their schedule to get bored, like really truly bored, so that they realize that they're responsible for occupying their time and interests. My great-grandmother always said, "If you are easily bored, that's a sign you're a boring person." We don't mean to be as blunt as her, but a pre-programmed life leads to pre-programmed thinking. Our unique qualities are found through deep introspection that can only come from being a little bored. Free up several hours a week in your kids' schedules where they can get bored.
- Manage Yourself
One of the best tools you can give your kid is the ability to manage their time and their activities. If you empower your kids to plan, prepare, and manage themselves, they will rise to the occasion. Sure, they might spend more time playing Minecraft than you might like, but ultimately you're giving them the precious knowledge that they're in control of our own lives, and therefore they can shape their own goals and destiny. Set up a weekly meeting with your kid to check in about what they want to accomplish during the week and help them be prepared to make that happen.
Childhood is a special time where we begin to develop who we are. But, we won't really get to know who we are if we are always doing something someone else has planned for us. Don't be afraid to cut back on kids' pre-planned time in order to increase their capacities for creativity, innovation, and time management.
There are also school models such as Sudbury and Armada's Innovative Education Base where kids can practice and develop these valuable capacities during school hours as well.
Keep them guessing,