Tumbling classes, ballet, peewee soccer, piano ... Therapists are beginning to see more children -- even as young as 3 -- for problems related to overscheduling, which can include stress and depression.
What's behind all this activity? Parents sometimes believe that more classes translates into more stimulated, smarter kids. Other parents, also overscheduled, tend to use their kids' activities as a way to get personal time for themselves.
While exposing children to different interests isn't harmful, say experts, too many new faces can be hard on toddlers and preschoolers, who typically have trouble with changes in routine. Unstructured time to play alone, away from classes or teams, is important: "That's when kids figure things out for themselves," says Suzanne Johnson, Ph.D., an associate professor at Dowling College, who specializes in early childhood social development.
As long as your child is having fun, there's no need for concern. But because little kids generally find it difficult to verbalize feelings, parents should be watchful for symptoms that accompany overload: headaches, stomachaches, increased irritability, sleep problems.