Planning an activity schedule for your child

IN MANY families, both parents work at increasingly demanding jobs. They are keenly aware of the high expectations of society and economy.

Driven by their desire to give their children a leg-up to cope with such future life demands on skillsets, they arrange for their kids to be enrolled in as many skills learning, intellectual and character development programmes as they can afford.

Additionally, such an activity schedule helps to mop up the excess energy of their kids in a positive way, to practise social skills and learn new skillsets that will stand them in good stead in years to come. After all, as the saying goes, an empty mind is the devil's workshop or playground of mischief!

But an overloaded or poorly planned activity schedule can result in overworked and stressed out children trying to live up to their parents' expectations. Their tiredness at such a young age could even lead to a chronic condition leading to burnout, not counting the stress on their other caregiver relatives like grandparents who probably have to keep track of the schedule while the parents work to bring home the money.

So, in order to help you, the onSponge parent, to avoid these pitfalls of potential damage to the physical and mental health of your growing child, these are some pointers on how to plan a balanced and manageable activity schedule that does not load the stress on your child or your family. 

Identify the activity

This must be based on what your kid enjoys and shows interest in, possibly also what he or she excels in to ensure the necessary commitment levels without you having to continually drive their attendance or participation. This minimises the stress for both them and you. But remember, if your child likes many activities, it is important
that you use this as an opportunity to teach on focusing on a few rather than enrolling in many!

Know the requirements/costs

Having identified the activity or activities, research the level of commitment of time and resources required of you and your child. Be it for swimming practice, martial arts training, school play practice and rehearsals, you need to find out the potential time demands especially that for your own involvement as some activities have periodic parent-child sessions. Other important considerations include equipment and outfitting requirements (and associated costs!).

Fitting into the household schedule

Having identified the activities, and becoming cognizant with the time and related demands, make sure the proposed activity schedule fits into your family/household schedule. Ensure backup plans for alternative trusted and supervised locations either at the activity location itself or nearby to temporarily locate your child after each activity if their designated pickups (by caregivers like grandparents, relatives, etc) are delayed.

Set realistic expectations

With respect to your child's performance in an activity, be supportive and offer encouragement, balancing this with constructive criticism. While you may have high expectations, it is important to ensure your child does not get discouraged or disheartened by failures - he or she must be able to maintain a self-sustaining level of engagement.

Periodic review

As your child gets older, there may be a loss of interest in an activity that was enjoyed previously. While ascertaining that this is not just due to some temporary obstacle (that must be learned to be overcome perhaps with your help),  be prepared to allow him or her to try something new. Also, as school demands grow, this
review becomes important to ensure the activity schedule is adjusted to allow sufficient time to attend to the increasing amount of homework. The revised schedule must still continue to address their personal needs for rest and recreation, and allow critical family interaction time eg at mealtimes and other shared activities.