Soccer, netball, piano, rugby, athletics, scouts, swimming, kappa haka and tutoring. Hopefully with enough time to finish your masses of homework after dinner. It sounds like a lot doesn’t it?

In reality, there are kids at school today with this amount, (or even more) of extra-curricular activities in their weekly schedule. It might sound excessive, and maybe it is, but the issue is that even these kids manage to find down time every day.

When in our current society downtime has become screen-time – is it really so bad to be preoccupied?

If there’s one cliché more common than that of the overbooked kid whose spare time is filled with sports practice, tutoring sessions and music lessons, it’s the one about the pasty kid who sits in front of video games starved for exercise, fresh air and human contact.

Considering that alternative, is being busy so bad? I would argue that we should be embracing the benefits of the scheduled lifestyle, especially in this day of so much digital temptation.

Of course, there is value in sitting in a corner reading, playing board games, climbing a tree or just daydreaming. But the reality is that in most homes, screens of one sort or another compete fiercely with all those unstructured activities. You might not believe it and it might not apply to you, but some children today spend more time looking at a screen than they do in school. Crazy right!

There is a long list of benefits of scheduled activities, from higher self-esteem, to lower rates of drug and alcohol use over time. It also found that children who are involved in multiple activities are usually able to maintain a balance in their lives. Typically, they still spend more time on schoolwork and other unscheduled activities such as informal games, household chores and watching television. When screens cannot be removed completely, as kids carry phones and are required to do a lot of their homework in front of screens, they have a constant source of distraction in front of them. Extra-curricular activities are a pretty sure way to sever the screen connection, at least for a few hours.

Of course, there is no optimal number of activities; it depends on the kid. And even those who advocate for multiple activities still encourage parents to make some time for their children to just be bored. The ultimate goal should be to have a mix of activity and unscheduled downtime. Sometimes when we are bored, we are at our most creative and imaginative. Other times, we are at our most lazy. It’s all about balance people!

Hannah Skelton

Critical Thinking Challenges:
1. Do you believe kids being really busy is a good or a bad thing? Why?
2. If you think bad, think of three solutions for this issue. If you think good, think of three ways to encourage other kids to get busier!
3. Think about the role of teachers and parents in encouraging extra-curricular activities. Is it up to them, or to the kids themselves?

Practical Tasks:
1. Ask your parents what they think is best, and what worked with you and your siblings.
2. Make yourself a schedule for this week that keeps you busy in the afternoon or when you would usually have downtime. If it goes well you could make it permanent!
3. Research the positives and negatives of being a kid with a busy schedule. What are the short and long term effects?

6 Responses

  1. I don’t agree I feel like some kids need a little more free time to reflect on life which they can’t do if their always doing something

  2. 1. I believe kids being busy is a good thing because it can give them good time management skills and teach them to manage them self.

    2. I think that being busy is great because when you complete a certain task that you have been working really busily on it gives you a great sense of achievement. If you have different sports (or do a lot of one sport) you can set goals to achieve by a certain time and to give you a sense of achievement

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