Overbooked Kids: The Overscheduled Crisis

By Nicole Minasi, LCMHC of Foundation Counseling and Wellness

As a pediatric psychotherapist, I ask my young patients to describe their day-to-day life during our first appointment. I often find myself taken aback by how many extracurricular activities they are enrolled in. It’s not uncommon for my patients to be signed up for an activity three or more days of the week on top of school, social commitments, and family time.   

overscheduled-kidsThe problem with overscheduling 

Many times, parents think that enrolling their kids in numerous activities is good for them and tend to feel a lot of pressure to sign their kids up for extracurriculars. As a parent myself, I often talk with other parents about their children’s activity schedules. I find myself walking away from these conversations thinking, “Are my kids doing enough?” However, research shows that being enrolled in too many activities can be detrimental. Studies indicate that children who spend more time in structured activities: 

  • have greater challenges with self-directed executive function  

  • struggle more with creativity 

  • don’t have the skills to structure their own time  

Overscheduling and mental health 

More concerning from a mental health standpoint is the impact being overscheduled can have on mood and anxiety. A 2024 data analysis found a relationship between the number of enrichment activities a child participated in and their mental health challenges. In a nutshell, kids who spend more time in extracurricular activities are more likely to struggle with anxiety, depression, and anger.   

In my own practice, I hear a great deal about the stress kids feel having to run from one activity to another, the lack of time they have to get their homework done, and how they are often sacrificing sleep to fit everything into the day. On top of this, there is pressure to perform well in these activities.   

Children are not the only ones experiencing ramifications; parental mental health can also be affected. Making sure your child is dressed, has their equipment ready, and is on time to a bunch of different commitments throughout the week can certainly lead to burn out. This stress is multiplied if parents have numerous kids enrolled in extracurriculars.  

The benefits of unstructured time 

It’s important to recognize that there are benefits to unstructured playtime. Not only do these periods allow kids to relax and recharge, they can also encourage:  

  • creativity 

  • social skills 

  • improved cognitive abilities and communication 

  • emotional and physical development 

Finding the balance 

There is value in enrolling your child in an activity that provides him or her with joy. However, it is important to ask yourself a few questions. “Is my child happy doing this?” “Does my child have enough time to sleep and get schoolwork done?” “Does my child have time for friends and family?” “Does my child seem stressed out?” “Has my child’s mood or behavior changed in a negative way since starting this activity?”  

There have been numerous times where I have encouraged my patients’ parents to pull their children out of some of their activities due to the negative impact on their mental health. Many times, I’m met with the response, “But my child likes doing these activities.” It’s important to remember that when your child’s wellbeing is being compromised, you as a parent may need to make an executive decision that your child needs a break. At the end of the day, the purpose of activities is to enhance a child’s life, not make it more challenging.  

Nicole Minasi
Nicole Minasi, LCMHC is a pediatric psychotherapist practicing at Foundation Counseling and Wellness


6 Benefits of Play & Young Kids - Physical, Emotional, Social, More. (n.d.). The Genius of Play. https://thegeniusofplay.org/tgop/benefits/genius/benefits-of-play/benefits-of-play-home.aspx?hkey=75c664db-cb16-4004-8756-03ba00ba381e 

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‌ Caetano, C., Caetano, G., & Nielsen, E. (2024). Are children spending too much time on enrichment activities? Economics of Education Review, 98, 102503. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.econedurev.2023.102503 

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How Overscheduling Prevents Skill Development | Psychology Today. (n.d.). Www.psychologytoday.com. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/parent-tips-20/202301/how-overscheduling-prevents-skill-development 

Overscheduled Kids. (2014). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/suffer-the-children/201408/overscheduled-kids 

Schwartz, S. (2023). Why Too Many Extracurriculars Are Bad For Our Kids. 

https://washingtonparent.com/why-too-many-extracurricular-activities-are-bad-   for-our-kids/ 

Posted: 6/4/2024 by Nicole Minasi, LCMHC of Foundation Counseling and Wellness