Keeping your child busy or too busy?

Between camp, Scouts, soccer, and playdates, pediatrician and WebMD Medical Editor Hansa Bhargava says many kids are spending their summer just trying to keep up with the calendar. 

So how much is too much when it comes to scheduling our children?

"The best advice I give to parents, and to myself as a parent, is 'know your kid.' So, some kids can handle 5 things. Some kids can only handle one thing outside of school," says Dr. Bhargava.

She says many parents have a tendency to overschedule kids.

And it's not only that you want your kids to try different things, but also keeping up with the Joneses, where the neighbors of friends have their kids in dance, or baseball or travel soccer. If that sounds like you, you may want to pause, take a deep breath, and reassess.

"Stop yourself and just know your child.  Can your child handle that?  What can your child handle?" says Dr. Bhargava.

Because studies show downtime is good for kids because it forces them to use their imagination.

Bhargava says younger children need plenty of unstructured playtimes, which is how they explore and learn. Older kids and teens, she says, often need unscheduled time to unwind and catch their breath.

"It's really important for children, teens, everyone to have free time. And there is research to show that free time allows creativity, and out of the box thinking," explains the pediatrician.

But, to many kids, free time automatically means screen time.  Bhargava says some of that is okay, but set limits.  So that kids are spending their summer -- just being kids.

"And if they take a day off, I would take the screens away from them, which is what I did. They can have a little bit of time off, but the day off is not meant to do texting or social media or gaming or be on TV all day.  It's really meant to help with recuperating," says Dr. Bhargava.

When do you know it's time to slow down? Watch for signs that the child is a bit stressed and not enjoying what should be fun. Another good sign? Your child is making excuses to get out the activities.

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