Playtime: Fresh ideas for overscheduled families

Jen Marx
Jen Marx

Recently, in our house, it became obvious that our schedule was way too much. “Way too much” feels like an understatement. I got to the point where I wasn’t sure I was having conversations with the kids that didn’t involve telling them to hurry up and finish whatever it was they were doing to head to another thing that needed to be done on a schedule.

This wasn’t because I don’t think kids should be “enriched” within an inch of their life, it was mainly because with two school-aged kids doing their own things, we hit capacity and then some. I was naive, unrealistic, with a dash of high pride in taking on this schedule. A quick web search of “overscheduled family statistics” brings up enough results that read like a scathing review of what you thought was, or felt like, the right thing for everyone.

For my oldest son, the increase in school demands brought a decrease in enjoyment for things he used to really love and apparently this is exactly what happens. This fact has brought up some rough feelings of parental guilt and what seems like a common questions I ask myself, “How did I get here?!?” I think the answer is “slowly” and in an environment where it’s common.

Dr. Bobbi Viegas-Miller, a clinical psychologist with Advocate Medical Group in Park Ridge, Ill., explains in an article from 2013, that paying attention to your child’s behavior toward a certain event is helpful because a change in their interest level in activities could point to them/you being overscheduled. Viegas-Miller touts the benefits of unstructured free time which gives kids more time to process activities and learning. She goes on to say, “Unstructured play time with friends can lead to better social skills.” A WebMD article titled “Overscheduled Child May Lead To A Bored Teen” was enough to get a click from me. Alvin Rosenfeld, MD, former head of child psychiatry at Stanford University and author of The Over-Scheduled Child” said of overscheduled kids “By the time they reach high school, they are bored and burned out.” The click-baity/blamey titled article explains that while in the past few decades the number of children who participate in organized youth sports has doubled, the number of teens who try out for high school sports is at an all-time low.

Unfortunately, knowing this info does little to change the reality of having kids who don’t fend for themselves on day-long friend excursions with helmet-less bike rides anymore (which, BTW, is fine by me.) Dr. Viegas-Miller makes an important point that is especially relevant if you have more than one kid or you’re not “driving” the activities, “If they have balance, it can work well, and each child will have a unique need for how many structured activities and how much unstructured time they need.”

So why explain all this before showing you a bunch of cool stuff to do nearby, adding to your (over) schedule? Well, my whole point in looking all this up was to say that the right activity, one that “fills their bucket,” or yours, may be short or new or seasonal. Trying a new thing or two, a few that included all of us, was just what the doctor ordered for our family.

All classes are held at The Frances Anderson Center, 700 Main St., expect Family Forest Fun Days, which is at Yost Park, 9535 Bowdoin Way. You can register or get more information at or by calling Debbie at Edmonds Parks and Recreation at 425-771-0230.

Join the most popular drama program in the world! Build confidence, creative thinking and language skills through fun, fast paced drama exercises including improvisation, mini-scripts, theater games and more. Drama instructor, Sue Pargman, homeschooled her children and has been teaching for over 30 years.
20665 1/6-2/3 W 5:30-6:30pm *$74/$85
20666 2/10-3/9 W 5:30-6:30pm *$74/$85
Cast and rehearse (11-weeks) for the Spring Play held on the last day of class. No class April 6.
20667 3/16-6/1 W 5:30-6:30pm *$163/$187

Looking for a fun, homemade gift for your Valentine? Come decorate and create four, 4-inch, Valentine’s day cookies with frosting, candy, sparkly sugar and edible glitter. Give as a gift, or enjoy for yourself. $8 supply fee. Instructor, Karen Knight. Dress for mess! Parent participation only required for under 8.
20658 2/13 Sat 9:30-10:30am *$11/$13
20659 2/13 Sat 11am-Noon *$11/$13

Have fun learning as a family while exploring the forested habitats of Yost Park through interactive games, crafts, and outdoor exploration! Kids must be accompanied by a parent. Parents attend for free, 10% discount for siblings. Instructor, Discovery Programs staff.

Come explore what’s hiding in a rotting log or in the leaves under your feet.
20797 2/20 Sat 10:30am-12pm *$10/$11

Find out who really lives in the forest. The answer may surprise you!
20800 3/12 Sat 10:30am-12pm *$10/$11

Enjoy family time, be active and create positive memories in this free 5-week swing dance class sponsored by Camp Fire. Parents and children learn partner dance and swing steps from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Held in gymnasium. Must pre-register as a pair. Minimum 10 pairs.
20798 2/29-3/28 M 7:15-8:15pm FREE

Join us on Earth Day and make your own hanging globe terrarium! Learn about air plants, how to create and keep a healthy terrarium, and all the factors that go into balancing this mini-ecosystem. $10 supply fee includes all supplies – forest fresh moss, rocks, sand, agates, glass globe, and one Tillandsia air plant.
20864 4/22 F 11am-Noon *$15/$18

— By Jennifer Marx

Jen Marx, a Mom of two young boys, is a traffic reporter by dawn and writer and PBJ maker by day. She is always looking for a fun place to take the kids that makes them tired enough to go to bed on time. You can find her trying to make sense of begging kids to ” just eat the mac n cheese” at jen_marx . If you have a kid-friendly event you’d like to share, email her at

  1. The author starts by saying kids might need more unplanned and unstructured time. Then She lists a bunch of scheduled classes that will be led by an instructor. In other words, structured activities. It seems like she still doesn’t understand the notion of letting go and encouraging her kids to just be kids.

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