Like most Singaporean parents, I started overscheduling my son at Julia Gabriel at 15 months. By the time he was 3, he was enrolled in art, music and swimming enrichment classes.
By 5, he has additional enrichment classes in abacus, Chinese, phonics, soccer and MPM.
On top of that, he has a full social calendar of play-dates and birthday parties (I became his personal secretary, so busy was he).
These activities all took place after his regular 3-hour preschool/kindergarten program.
Are we overscheduling our kids? One mum reflects!
Whew!! Just thinking about it now is enough to make my head spin.
“At 3.5 years old, is it necessary to send for enrichment class?” Joeline asks, worried that her child may feel stress & loses his childhood freedom.
Nicki, a mother of 3 doesn’t think so. “At this stage, it’s more important to give them the chance to try different things that they might be interested in – sports, music, art etc.”
But what if he cannot catch up with the rest?
Image source: iStock
This eternal question fuelled by the fear of parents that they have not prepared their young ones well enough has resulted in a multi-billion dollar enrichment industry in Singapore.
Whatever you dream for your child to excel in; there is a class for him/her to take. Select from a wide plethora of choices to enrich your child in – art, dance, music, sports, reading, writing, mathematics, science, brain-training, motivation, or a combination.
Jean, a mother of one, said that “3.5 years is not young already. They already understand and can absorb what they are taught. This is the best time to feed them with info. Don’t ever underestimate them; you will be surprised on how fast they pick up things. At the end of the day, you are the only one who knows your child best and you are the only one who knows whether he is ready or not… cos every child has different learning patterns and pace.”
Elaine, another mom agrees. She enrolled her child for right brain training at 18 months and felt that was kind of late.
Short-changing or over-scheduling their childhood
So, are we short-changing our children if their post-school time consists of nothing more than watching TV, a snack and some plain old-fashioned playtime, rather than a round of ‘enrichment’ activities? Or is over-scheduling more detrimental to their development, leaving them with little idea of how to entertain themselves?
Child psychologist, Dr Harriet Tenebaum, said that “research suggests extra-curricular activities are related to improvements in children’s confidence and academic achievement. However, it is important not to over-schedule children because they need time to play and be spontaneous too.
Spontaneous play helps children learn how to self-regulate their emotions and wishes, increase their imagination, contribute to their cognitive development, and help them learn how to act in different situations with a variety of different people.”
A mother of one, Dr. Tenebaum holds a degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and has a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Education among her other luminous accreditation.
It is important not to over-schedule children because they need time to play and be spontaneous too. | Image courtesy: stock image
So, what can you do to stop overscheduling your kids?
1. Watch out for overscheduling
Children need downtime and unstructured play at home and with their friends.
So, although extra-curricular activities can be fantastic, remember they already spend about 20 to 25 hours a week at school, and might have another couple of hours of homework on top of that.
It’s all about balance!
2. Don’t put your children into the rat race too soon
Image source: iStock
Many Asian parents are compelled to enrol their kids in different activities out of fear or peer pressure when they see their friends or neighbours doing it.
If your child is tired enough after a day at school and prefers to simply catch up with their favourite toys at home, stick with that and try not to feel they’re missing out.
A busy schedule of after-school dance and drama classes might create an all-singing, all-dancing child, but it won’t necessarily make them happier.
Once they enter primary school, they will have plenty of activities to occupy them. Enjoy their childhood with them as much as you can.
3. Stand firm
If they have different activity ideas each week, it’s perfectly reasonable to limit them to 2 or 3.
Trudi, who has a daughter, 9, and a son, 7, said “I will not force them to do anything. With any opportunities for classes, we let them make the choice to go. Once they have decided, they must stick with their decision for the duration.”
Also read: Dealing with a stressed kid