NPR had a great piece last week on the increase in structured activities and planned time for children (listen here). This generally is seen as a departure from days when children would have many hours a day to do whatever they wished from running around the backyard to organizing a game of tag. Some folks are concerned about this trend and believe that it is a fundamental change to childhood that produces some undesirable effects such as a decreased ability to organize events with other children and lower creativity.

I generally come from the position that as long as children are getting their basic needs met by attentive caregivers, then the style of activities they are involved in will have the same cost/benefit ratio as any other activities. For example, if a child has a very structured upbringing and has much of his/her time planned (soccer, track, piano, Spanish, etc), then certain skills such as ability to maintain a schedule, multitask, and work within a framework may be enhanced, with the tradeoff being creativity and imagination. Children across the world grow up in vastly different circumstances and most manage to be healthy productive adults. The current trend certainly clashes with values of the past, but it seems premature to see it as entirely negative.