On almost every night of the week my kids take part in extra-curriculum activities.
On Monday my daughter has Zumba and on Tuesday she has tennis. My son also plays rugby on Tuesday and on Wednesday they’ve both got swimming.
Thursday is rugby for my son, followed by drum lessons while my daughter has tutoring. And on Friday there’s Cubs for my daughter. On top of all this, they used to have guitar lessons, waterpolo AND bike club at the weekend.
Phew! Just reading all this has tired me out, let alone playing taxi driver during the week. Yes, we’d like to give our kids opportunities that never existed when we were kids, but are we in danger of overworking them?
Taking part in so many activities has only added to my stress levels. Just making sure we have the right equipment and getting them there on time sometimes feels like a huge chore, so surely the kids feel this way too?
Kids ‘work’ for 46 hours a week
I was interested to read a recent survey by Center Parcs that found kids are ‘working’ for over 46 hours a week.
The shock research shows that parents are over-timetabling their kids with extra-curricular activities in addition to their school commitments.
Scarily, this means kids are actually working harder than the average parent who only completes a 37.5 hour week at work.
Apparently the average child already completes 30 hours and 50 minutes a week at school Monday to Friday, as well as seven hours and 51 minutes of clubs and homework each week.
And actively reading with parents daily accounts for a further five hours and 49 minutes a week.
Finally, the study of 2,000 parents found the average child also helps with housework for up to an hour and 37 minutes each week.
To be fair, I don’t make my kids do any housework, but if they offer (and they occsionally do), then I make sure I incentivise them with either a small treat or some pocket money.
Taking a step back and looking at the weekly timetable has been a huge learning curve for us as a family. We’ve now committed to having free weekends and dropping at least one club in the week.
And when the kids get in, they do their homework and then they are encouraged to relax and switch off. After all, we all need downtime don’t we?
So what about the research? Well, in response to the findings, Center Parcs commissioned Channel 4 child psychologist Dr Sam Wass to develop a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for Free Time – which equates to three hours and 51 minutes every day.
The RDA is based on three hours on a week day and six hours a day at the weekend, calculated using time needed for a variety of free-time activities which will allow children to use their imagination and develop their creative thinking.
Interestingly, there’s a huge amount of research that suggests that this child-led, unstructured free play is vital for stimulating imagination and creativity, as well as helping the child to become more self-sufficient.
Now that sounds like the perfect excuse to let the kids unwind! And you know what…? I might just join them – heaven knows I need it!