Slow Down

Busy, Busy Bees!

Everybody’s busy these days! Even the lifestyle of many young children includes a crowded schedule of activities: almost every waking hour is programmed so as not to miss anything. It is natural and appropriate for parents to want their children to take advantage of all potentially valuable experiences and to expose them to the rich variety of activities provided by public libraries, museums, and other community resources.

Many parents are eager to get their preschoolers started on various sports, athletic training, or music lessons, and to get them ready for the next stage of development. Some parents feel pressure from family and neighbors to keep up with others on the amount of enrichment they offer their children, and they feel guilty if theirs are not enrolled in every program available. Others simply subscribe to the view that “the devil finds work for idle hands to do.”

It’s important to understand, however, that the amount of scheduled activity children can enjoy varies widely, just as it does for adults. Some children can thrive on a schedule that others find too stressful. Conversely, some youngsters will be thoroughly bored by a lifestyle that others find comfortably low key. The big question is, How much of your child’s time should be scheduled and programmed? The points outlined below may help you as you contemplate what might be best for your preschooler.

Signs of Stress

The best way to assess whether your youngster’s lifestyle is compatible with her temperament, disposition, and stage of development is to observe her for signs of excessive stress. Unusual difficulties in falling asleep, restless nights, loss of appetite, frequent whining, fussiness, and irritability may signal that she is “over-programmed” for the moment. Persistent reluctance to go to the next activity may also indicate that the schedule is more taxing than she can cope with at present and that it should be evaluated.

It helps to drop something from the schedule temporarily and to take a little time to see if she becomes more like herself once the regimen has relaxed a bit. In such cases, it is probably a good idea to indicate to the child that you want her to drop some activity temporarily, until she feels better, and that it will be resumed later. This approach minimizes the chances that she will develop a pattern of dropping out of an activity anytime she wearies of it.