Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Are Extra Curricular Activities Helping or Hurting Kids Today?

I often wonder if the extensive amount of homework and extra curricular activities enforced on kids today are actually reducing children's ability to learn, to grow with social skills, and inhibiting their ability to use their imagination.

During today's times, when a kid says he/she is bored, what do you parents do? Give them an iPad filled with apps? Make them study more? Sign them up for so many activities that it has you running ragged trying to get them to every one of them on time? What ever happened to simply "playing?" I mean real play; with no schedule, no class, no assignment, no computers, and little to no boundaries; just friends having fun with their imaginations.

Remember when you got together with your friends and just had fun using your imagination and coming up with things to keep you busy? Sure, sometimes you got into trouble; that is how we learn, through mistakes.

One of my friends recently posted this short story about his daughter's attempt to play with friends. **(Any and all names have been removed in respect for privacy.)

"Y'know when I was a kid, some of my best memories were getting out and being with my buddies...

Nowadays, this is what my daughter gets, doing the same thing as me back then, way too often:

Daughter goes off to house #1 with 2 kids in her proximate age bracket and rings the doorbell, door is answered by mom "Hi can <<2 kids>> come out and play?" Mom: "Not today hon, they've got homework and a gazillion extra curriculars to do."

Undeterred, daughter goes over to house #2 with 4 kids in her proximate age bracket, knocks on door, mom answers, same question, same response.

Daughter then comes whining home to me about how nobody wants to play with her. The best I can offer is to oblige her in a few kid activities myself.

So what's going on? Are kids so overrun with Girl Scouts, Band practice, extra classes, etc. that they just aren't allowed to "play" anymore? This disturbs me...or am I the parent in the wrong and I should be signing my daughter up for a million different things myself?

I'm not sure this is helping the kids either. Or my four buddies above came out relatively normal (they may dispute that in some comments below) as did I. I'll bet these similar sheltered kids have the same outlook as my daughter (I seriously doubt any Harvard Scholars are on my block, probably just more everyday folk when they're out of High School). *sigh*"
One of the comments in response to my friend's post: 
"I can't help but think that if kids today were able to get into a "little trouble" like we were when we were kids, then it would make them less likely to get into big trouble later on. Allowing kids to go out and play and get into a little trouble, IMO, gives them enough freedom that they don't feel stifled and react badly to more freedom (i.e., the potential of big trouble) later on"
Seriously, how do we truly learn about life? By living it. I have a couple hundred child students that I teach karate to every week, at various locations. I see and hear it all from the kids and their parents. I witness many of them rushing into the room, late for class each week. I see absences; they return to make up the missed class with "reasons" like the kid had a soccer game or a large amount of homework. And I see kids with black circles under their eyes because they are so busy with activities, they do not get the rest they need.

When I give them a moment to get creative and practice their choice of karate move, they falter into the routine of chatting disruptively when they have a brief moment of nothing. Most likely soaking in the chance to just talk with a friend. 

These kids are much smarter than most people give them credit for;  they just need to be given the opportunities to use their imagination and have fun!

I certainly am not saying that activities are not good for kids. I encourage you to get your kids involved with things. Give them and have them learn responsibility. But how much is too much? Do they get any time to just play with friends? You are most likely raising a little genius, if you give them the chance to express it with the freedom to make mistakes. Think about it.