Let's face it, we live in a busy world. This is not always a bad thing, though I don't know a single parent who doesn't wish their lives calmer or less scheduled. When I ask other parents how things are going, they almost always have the same, tired, and redundant response — "Busy!"
This is especially true when it comes to our children, who are more scheduled than ever. Burdened with a countless number of social, academic, and extra-curricular activities, it seems as if every waking minute is filled with something to do. What little free time they do have is spent watching TV, playing video games, or surfing the web - all in the quest to avoid being bored.
What seems to be lost in our modern lives are the simpler, quieter times that I recall spending as a child.
Brain Benefits of Down Time
Now experts are beginning to think that there may be value to this down time. Rather than thinking of it as being lazy or unproductive, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests time spent daydreaming is important for cognitive development. During quiet introspection, a child's brain is not actually idle, and the process of turning their thoughts inward actually helps them to learn, remember, and make sense of the world around them. This, in turn, helps kids to be more motivated and less anxious.
With this in mind, maybe it's not a bad idea for parents to make a new year's resolution to slow things down a bit in their kids lives and allow for more down time, keeping in mind that sitting quietly in thought does not mean that their growing minds are not still hard at work.
Here are some helpful tips to accomplish this.
1. Don't overschedule.
This is easier said than done, because it's so easy to add just one more enriching activity, but sometimes you have to forsake something in order to let your children have a break.
2. Plan to make no plans.
As crazy as it may sound, sometimes we have to work hard at not working hard. Instead of trying to fill every waking moment, make the effort to find free time for your kids to do nothing.
3. Let them be bored.
In the modern world of parenting, it seems unusual to allow a little boredom in our children, even though being bored forces them to take the initiative, and use their imaginations.
4. Turn off the screen.
Being bored makes kids use their brains, but nothing shuts off their minds more effectively than TV and video games. Not only that, but these forms of entertainment also succeed in promoting the message of advertisers.
5. Make them go outside.
If your kids are complaining about being bored, they'll find a way to entertain themselves outside, whether it be riding their bikes, throwing a ball, or just sitting on the grass and watching bugs. Plus, children today spend too much time indoors, a condition that author Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods) refers to as "Nature Deficit Disorder."
6. Encourage reading.
What parent doesn't want their kids to read more? Teach kids the beauty of reading, and read together with them. A trip to the library can be a fun way to celebrate the magic of books.
7. Take a break yourself.
The modern parent is constantly overscheduled and busy. Learn to appreciate moments sitting by yourself. Savoring these moments and slowing down sends the message to kids that it's okay to take a break now and then.
It is good for kids to be active, to have goals, and to work hard towards attaining them, but sometimes the quest for achievement makes it hard to keep things in perspective, especially with the wealth of enriching opportunities out there.
Bear in mind, quiet down time is a good idea for parents to embrace, as well. To learn more about the importance of down time, visit the website for Kids Health. For more information about the book Last Child in the Woods, visit Richard Louv's website.
From all of us at Parenting Squad, we wish you a happy and healthy new year!