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The Benefits of Scheduling Down Time for your Kids

Updated on November 28, 2007

Is your family always on the go? Running to soccer practice, then a scout meeting, a dance class next, a karate class after that? Are you and your kids feeling a little frazzled, wondering why the days, months and years just seem to rocket by? Maybe it's time to take a break. Slow down and smell the gardenias. It'll be good for you and even better for your kids.

In today's world, you're just not a good parent unless you've got your children enrolled in all sorts of extracurricular activities to enhance and broaden their lives. Is all this over scheduling really necessary? Is it even healthy?

A report from American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says, "free and unstructured play is healthy and- in fact essential- for helping children reach important social, emotional, and cognitive developmental milestones as well as helping them manage stress and become resilient."

The reason free, unstructured time is important is because the brain (especially the developing brain of a child,) needs time to process data and sensory input. This unstructured time also allows the child's creativity to come forth. They learn how to deal and interact with the world during play. In other words, your child will learn better and be mentally and emotionally healthier if he/she isn't constantly "on". Like you, kids need to rest their brains!

The study further states: "Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child". Yet, recesses are being shortened or all together removed from the school day in favor of more academics and/or other enrichment programs.

Ack! It's no wonder that children are getting stressed when they're always hurried without a moment to breathe.

Maybe I'm dating myself here, but I remember my childhood summers that felt like they stretched out forever. Days were filled with whatever my imagination came up with; sometimes making craft projects, sometimes reading, sometimes just biking around the neighborhood. While it might be unrealistic in this era of both parents in the work force to give full summers of free time to kids, it's not out of the question to slow things down.

We owe it to our youngsters, our future generation to back off on the daily mad dash. Let's all take time to enjoy the simple pleasure of just doing nothing.


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