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A regular schedule of extra curricular activities for children seems to be the norm. When, then, will they have the chance to just be children, and free to just be?
The park seemed to wear a dismal look. I couldn’t hear the sound of squealing children, nor did I spot a doting parent or a loving grandparent at the bench. Except for a child or so, this park in an upscale South Delhi Colony bore a deserted look.
I found a comfortable spot, and as I sat, watching my two little girls do the monkey bars and climb up and down the slides zillion times, a young mother I knew came by. It had been weeks since I had bumped into her or her seven-year-old daughter. On enquiring, she told me how busy life was, for her and her little girl. Coming to the park was out of the question because the child was busy attending evening classes to learn swimming, tennis, gymnastics, karate, chess, drawing, Odishi dance and classical music.
Gone are the days, when evenings are spent playing with neighbors and friends at the local park or kicking a ball at an empty ground in the locality. In a metro such as Delhi, there are issues of sorts that push the child indoors after school. Space constraints, safety concerns, plus the busy lifestyle of parents are a few of the reasons. Not to forget the shrinking size of the family, with no companion whatsoever for the child at home, and the growing menace of hand held gadgets in our daily lives.
Parents thus, find it easier, to pack a child’s day with structured activities of sorts, keeping them not only occupied (presumably productive) but also away from television and technology.
Big cities today sports classes of every kind. From ballet to piano classes, sketching to tennis, Bollywood dance classes to gymnastics, name it and you would find them around. Centres running these classes are open to young students on almost all days of the week.
Such activities of music, dance, dramatics, and sports surely do wonders to a child’s self-confidence. And when you give them a chance to learn them outside the school, it’s also another opportunity to make new friends. Much as I acknowledge this fact and also admire parents who dedicate their evenings ricocheting between classes, I prefer not subjecting myself (and my child) to many activities.
I must confess though, that this decision of mine has many a time made me feel inadequate. There is this constant Fear of Missing Out, as I see parents around ferrying children for various activities. Probably that’s what pushes many other parents too. But I constantly make an effort to remind myself that what best I can do is just equip my child with a few extra skills, to help raise his confidence. I cannot over-schedule his life, not yet.
And that truly raises a valid question- How many is too many?
Each child is different and, has his own pace to learn, develop interests and pursue passions. It pays to not push him beyond his comfort level and, allow him to discover interests on his own. Give him that blank space in his daily time table, to dream, breathe and explore the world around. Strike a balance- between free playtime and the exposure to learn something new.
Published here earlier.