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How to Create Downtime for Kids

How to Create Downtime for Kids
    Photo credit: httsan (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

    So many kids these days are scheduled for every minute. Even in summer, on weekends and school holidays you would think they get a break, but kids are shuttled from camp to practices to games to holiday weekends, all without time to breathe or play.

    As an adult, that sort of schedule would leave me stressed out, cranky and frantic. When I find myself over-scheduled, I seek downtime. How could it be any different with kids?

    Downtime isn’t something that just happens, though. Here are four ways to create downtime for children.

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    Cutting Back On Activities

    We all want the best for our kids. This can mean lessons, tutoring, camps and sports practices. But day after day of constant activity makes for a too-full schedule. The first way to create space for down time is to cut back on activities.

    Set a limit on what the child can do. If given a choice of two activities, ask your child what they would prefer. My daughter picked piano and Girl Scouts, and consciously turned down tennis camp and strings because they would cut into her few free evenings.

    Making sure there is plenty of unscheduled time gives children the opportunity to use their imaginations, relax, and learn about the world around them – three very necessary things.

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    It may even turn into opportunities. The family next door had a “one sport, one other activity” rule for the school year. Their daughter went out for the boy’s football team — and made it! She spent three years as a field goal kicker and getting to learn about sports in a way that most women never get to.

    Creating Space In Every Day

    A single day off after months of overwork doesn’t compensate for the lack of rest in adults. The same applies for kids. Creating regular and frequent time for the children to settle down and unwind is essential to keep them in balance.

    Space doesn’t mean filling time with mind-numbing activities; it means giving the child a time and place to unwind.

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    We have a “no-tv-on-school-days” rule to eliminate the noise; during the summer we limit all electronics to one hour per day. This gives my daughter time to play outside without the siren of television beckoning her.

    Sometimes this can even mean setting aside a physical place for relaxing. My daughter chose to make a reading corner in her bedroom (modeled after my own reading area), so that she has a quiet place to go to when she wants to read.

    Encouraging Quiet Activities

    Downtime doesn’t necessarily mean quiet volume, but for children, quiet time is essential to get them ready for sleep. Have you ever tried to put a toddler to bed who is overstimulated?

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    Quiet activities, such as drawing, reading and crafts, can allow the child to ramp back energy levels and focus on something that is relaxing.

    It is easy to have materials on hand for these activities. A trip to the library every other week, a quick run through the dollar store for paper and drawing supplies, or shopping the after-holiday sales at a craft store for craft kits are good ways to ensure you have quiet activity items on hand.

    Modeling Behavior

    The last point, and probably the most important, is that children pick up things from the adults around them. If they see that you are over-scheduled, hyper and always on the go, they will feel this is a good way to be.

    Taking time to relax ourselves, making sure our own schedules are under control, and having quiet times show children that this is desirable. They will emulate the behavior that they observe.

    Giving kids time to be kids, with unstructured time and quiet activities, can help children be in tune with their natural rhythms. Do you have ideas on how to create downtime for kids, or the importance of it? Share below.

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    Last Updated on December 2, 2018

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

    Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

    The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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    The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

    Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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    Review Your Past Flow

    Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

    Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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    Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

    Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

    Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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    Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

    Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

    We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

    Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

      Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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