Study: Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning

Research in Brief

(Education Week)

A recent report in the journal Frontiers in Psychology  found “that the kids who spent more time in less-structured activities had more highly-developed self-directed executive function.” However, the children who spent more time in structured activity showed a decrease in ability to set goals, make decisions and self-regulation. 

Self-directed executive function develops during childhood and involves the ability to plan, make decisions, manipulate information, task switching, and inhibit unwanted thoughts and feelings.

The report states, “The researchers define structured activities as anything organized and supervised by adults—like music lessons or community service. For an activity to be less-structured, the child must be in charge of deciding what to do and figuring out how to do it. All forms of free play counted as less-structured activities.”

The report stated that “the more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning.” 

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