8 signs your child might be over-scheduled

As a teacher it can be easy to see that not only do we as adults lead extremely busy lives, but so do our children.  People used to ask me if my class was difficult to teach on a Friday afternoon because the children were tired.  You might be surprised to discover that it was not Friday but Monday that was the most affected.  Most of the children had spent the greater part of their weekends involved in so many extra curricular activities that by the time Monday rolled around, they were absolutely worn out.


Of course, it is important that our children take part in these things but I wonder whether we are scheduling too many activities for them.  In days gone by, children spent many hours involved in imaginative play.  They created cubby houses, played Cowboys and Indians or spent time watching ants walk along the back fence.  It seems that we as modern parents might be afraid that if we don’t give our children access to all of the opportunities available, we will be somehow depriving them and affecting their future prospects.  I wish to propose that by trying to timetable every waking moment for our children, we are depriving them of the opportunity to develop a great number of more important life skills.

Children need time to learn how to problem solve, make decisions, develop relationships, and build self reliance.  Children, like adults need time to think, reflect, contemplate and read.  Free time teaches children to be self sufficient and gives them the opportunity to solve problems that don’t occur in tightly structured, adult led activities but do occur in real life.  The ability to process an activity they have just completed can only occur in those quiet times when they are free from distractions and the pressures to perform.  If we are filling every waking moment, these things simply cannot occur.

Signs your child may be over scheduled. 

1) They are always busy. – If your child has no down time, time to just sit, think, play, be alone, then they are probably doing too much.

2) They constantly complain about being tired. – Headaches, general feelings of being unwell, difficulty sleeping, can all be warning signs of too many activities.

3) You spend too much time in the car.- If the car has become your second home because you are always shuffling your children from one activity to the next, perhaps it is too much.

4) Your children are losing their friendships – If it is impossible to arrange a play date after school because there are no free afternoons to fit one in, then that’s a sign it’s time to cut back.

5) You no longer sit down to eat together as a family– When one parent is always out running a child to another activity, time to develop family relationships can suffer.

6) You feel tired from all of the running around– If you feel tired from all of the driving you have to do to get your child to all of their events, consider how the child must feel actually having to participate in them.

8) Your child feels pressured to achieve. – Do your expectations match their ability?  If there is a mismatch between their ability and what they are required to achieve, persevering can be detrimental to their self image.

There must be physical space for there to be mental space. Click To Tweet

If some or all of these points resonate with you, there are definite steps you can take to turn the situation around. 


1) Think about whether it is your child who is pushing for the activity or yourself. If it is important only to you, consider dropping it.

2) Limit your child’s scheduled activities to no more than 3 each week. eg. 1 sport, 1 social activity such as scouts and 1 artistic activity such as music or art.  Ideally these should not take up more than 1 hour per week each.

3) Make time to play with them.  Play catch outside, go for a bike ride, play board games together, eat dinner as a family.  Make these activities about fun rather than about competition or winning and develop in your child an enjoyment of doing an activity for its own sake rather than for an external reward.  See ‘I stopped exercising and now I’m much healthier‘ for some thoughts on this.


14 thoughts on “8 signs your child might be over-scheduled

  1. I’m trying to be very aware of this as it’s easy to want them to do these things (especially when they’re keen) but I don’t want them to have no down time. I prefer the afternoons where they’re outside playing games fighting dragons and saving princesses than when were rushing from activity to activity.

    1. It’s finding that balance isn’t it? Scheduled activities vs space to think, dream and create.

    1. Thank you Kaz, I see a lot of people struggling with this so I am hoping it gives families simple ideas.

    1. Hi Luisa, I see that your baby is just at the end of the breastfeeding stage so yes, a little while to go. I do know littlies not much older though who have swimming, play group, library, day care, toddler music, you name it. It must work for some but I advise caution or risk burnout for all.

  2. My daughter is 2.5 and we do a fun activity together during the week each term. We did an art class, music class , a gym class and next term we will do swimming. I love spending this time with her and encouraging her to try new things. It a luxury I can afford to provide my daughter with, and as she gets older I will encourage her to follow her passions. However, as a family we often have weekends where we don’t even leave the house and we are also teaching her that she can find happiness at home. She is just as happy playing in the backyard with the dog. It’s all about finding the balance(as you mentioned) xx

    1. Hi Chrissie,
      It sounds like you and your daughter do some fantastic things together. I love our stay at home weekends too. Some Saturdays it’s lunchtime before my children even get out of their pyjamas and I have no issue with that at all. We all need down time and I encourage them to take it when they need it. xx

  3. I think this is good advice if you have 1 child. But what becomes difficult is if you have multiple children. Who do you choose? They should EACH have the opportunity to do at least 1 non-school related activity they love and want to explore, right? It would be great if they all had the same interest and you didn’t have logistic conflict. But we’re letting them be individuals, right? I only have 2 boys…one does basketball and cub scouts. The other only does tai kwan do. But that effectively means that (including church), we literally don’t have a single day that doesn’t have something scheduled into at some point. We play with our kids…camp ski, and boat as a family…they still have friends. I’m exhausted…we are in our car a lot. But I cook real meals for them a make it work. I just don’t think it’s as simple as you make it sound. Although you are not wrong, it sounds as though you and several of the moms commenting might have younger kids. You set their activities. As they get older and have real interests…how do you squash that?

    1. Hi Lindsie. Thank you for your comment. I also have 2 children aged 11 and 14. I do advocate in the article allowing each child to have their own interests. My children certainly have real interests of their own and as they are a boy and a girl, these interests differ considerably between them. I agree, it would certainly be nice if they both did the same things. 🙂 In terms of setting their activities, well no, I don’t do that but I do have the final say in what they do. That is my role as the parent. If allowed to do his own thing, my son would happily play squash 7 days a week and obviously that is not conducive to achieving many other things for any of us. I hope your hectic schedule slows down sometime soon. Happy Lifewrangling.

  4. So true! Even when some of these are true the alarm bell should be ringing. Something always has to give, and if you don’t manage it well, it will be your child or you. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Soooooooooooo true! It really is a rabbit hole of activities once kids start getting involved. They want to do everything but its just not possible to be out of the house that much! I am limiting my kids to 1 thing each at the moment but its tricky. Thanks for a great article.

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