Kids: Well-Rounded or Overscheduled?

Between soccer practices, dance recitals, music lessons, and, of course, homework, do you ever get the feeling that your children need a personal assistant?

"There's a 6-year-old in our community who just got her first planner recently. She is in 7 car pools a week," said Dr. William Dougherty.

It's not just your imagination. For all the benefits extracurricular activities provide, some studies find they are basically stripping children of what we used to call fun.

At the University of Minnesota, a study found that while participation in structured sports has doubled in the last 20 years, family dinners have been scaled back a third, family vacations are down 20 percent, and kids spend half as much time as they used to just playing outside.

Jane Guffy saw it coming, with three children already in school and two little ones just right behind them, life was already getting a little bit hectic. "I knew I needed to slow it down when I felt like the two youngest were always in their car seats, and having a snack on the run, and when most of the words often spoken from my mouth were 'hurry up, lets go' or 'we've got to leave, we're running late,"' said Guffy.

She and the other parents of a Minneapolis suburb found a solution, an effort they call "family life first." With the support of local coaches, teachers, and instructors, everyone has decided to slow it down. Even the activities directors themselves.

Dave Gaither, Wayzata Youth Football Director, said that for his players, "Football is not the number one priority. It is their family, their education, their spiritual life, well ahead of football."

Guffy's 10-year-old son, Matthew, noticed a difference right away: "We're doing more group things." Guffy adds: "I don't have to hire out bits and pieces of my parenting. I can decide to take that back and do it here in my own home, and still send them out into the world well-rounded, but minus some activities."

Minus the activities, but plus a whole lot of old-fashioned fun. Not such a bad equation after all.

With hectic schedules, family dinners can fall by the wayside. And that means fewer opportunities for you to talk to your kids about school or other important things in their lives.

Fewer dinners at home could also affect your child's health. Researchers have shown that kids ages 9 to 14 who eat regular dinners with their families tend to eat less saturated fat and more vegetables. So keep your kids busy, but not too busy so they don't miss too many family meals.