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My husband is excited about getting our four-year-old son involved in a variety of sports. He has signed him up on a hockey team twice per week and enrolled him in skating school, and now wants to look into swimming lessons. Our boy just started pre-kindergarten and I'm worried that school plus all of these new activities will be overwhelming for him. How much is too much at age four?


Derick Wilder Replied: You are probably right to have some concern, especially with a 4-year-old. There is a growing body of evidence that seems to indicate we do tend to over-schedule our children these days. There are just so many options out there that parents often don't want to feel like they are "missing out" on an opportunity.

Let your common sense and your child's enjoyment of the activities act as measuring sticks. If your son continues to enjoy going to the scheduled sporting classes, then that is one good indicator. But as a general rule, I recommend that parents participate in 1 or 2 sports at one time.

And in this case, where your son has just started pre-K, that is yet another new environment to which he is being exposed. So I would let everything settle for at least a couple of weeks and see how he acclimates to all the activities before adding another thing to his plate.
Posted On 2009-09-25 19:59:24
Charlotte Cowan, M.D. Replied: The question you raise is an excellent one to which we parents and pediatricians wish we knew the answer. It is not obvious. Each child is different and also each child changes from one year to the next in terms of how much he can handle and what is appropriate for him. I would seek the advice of your pediatrician who knows you and your son well. Not knowing you at all, my guess would be that a four year-old child who is in school five days a week probably would do well with one or two other activities. Children need unstructured time! If they are over structured (and overstimulated)they tend to get whiny, anxious and may even regress. Obviously, if you see any of these behaviors, I would cut back. One other point is simply to offer your son different activities so that he can choose his areas of interest. He may turn out not to be a hockey player but to prefer swimming; his passions need to be his own and not necessarily those of his mother or father.
Posted On 2008-07-25 09:33:54
Tina Nocera Replied: And what about just playing for the sake of playing? Too often parents are so excited about their children being involved in organized sports that they don't realize children are very happy to play with their friends without the involvement of teams. What about your family time? The more involved your children are in organized activities, the less family time you have together. If you child likes a particular sport, especially at this age, nothing is better than a parent playing with them and coaching them in your own backyard. There is plenty of time for organized sports. Don't rush it.
Posted On 2008-06-16 21:39:00
Ashley Hammond Replied: It is hard to say what is too much for a four year old as they differ so greatly. Only you truly know his capacity to do multiple sports and a rigorous school schedule. Some warning signs of overload should be keenly watched. 1. An unwillingness to participate in any of the activities should be honored as he either dislikes it or is simply too tired. 2. An inabiilty to get up in the morning at a reasonable hour. Young children sometimes enjoy sleeping in but usually they jump out of bed with vim and vigor! If your little one is sleeping late always then he is too tired. 3. Physical fatigue such as aching legs or a sore body is not normal for a 4 year old and is the sign of overuse and too much going on. 4. Irratabilty and a lethargic tired child are also signs of over doing it. Listen to your child and do not force him to do what he does not want to do as it relates to extra curricula sports activities.
Posted On 2008-03-23 07:34:13
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