In many countries September marked the start of the school year and the scramble to balance travel soccer and science tutoring against Brazilian jujitsu and test prep.
The logistics of managing after-school activities are nothing compared to the mental acrobatics parents perform trying to weigh how much is too much. Some kids thrive on being busy, others need downtime. It can all feel very zero-sum: every organized activity comes at the cost of letting a child’s imagination flourish.
So what’s the magic formula for how much is enough?
Twenty hours, according to a group of professors from Stanford and Villanova who have been collecting data on the issue since 2007.
In “Extracurricular Activity in High-Performing School Contexts: Stress Buster, Booster or Buffer?” Jerusha Conner from Villanova University and Denise Pope and Sarah Miles from the Stanford University Graduate School of Education found that 87% of kids from well-off schools with extracurricular overload were perfectly happy with their packed-to-the-hilt days, unless they were doing more than four hours a day.
“If you do over 20 hours of week of extracurriculars—after-school sports or music—that’s where we started to see some health issues,” Pope told Quartz. Those include more emotional problems, less sleep and higher stress levels than those doing fewer activities. The study is in the process of being peer reviewed and is not publicly available.
Read the entire article on the Quartz website.
Pope discusses in an interview her new book about how schools can adopt measures to reduce stress.