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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 9, 2019

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    5 Simple Ways to Relieve Stress Effectively

    Everyone experiences mental stress at one time or another. Maybe you’re starting a new career, job, or business, or you feel incredibly overwhelmed between work, parenting, and your love life (or a lack of it). It could even be that you simply feel that you have way too much to do and not enough time to do it,  plus, on top of everything, nothing seems to be going the way it should!

    Yup, we all experience mental stress from time-to-time, and that’s okay as long as you have the tools, techniques and knowledge that allow you to fully relieve it once it comes.

    Here are 5 tips for relieving mental stress when it comes so you can function at your best while feeling good (and doing well) in work, love, or life:

    1. Get Rationally Optimistic

    Mental stress starts with your perception of your experiences. For instance, most people get stressed out when they perceive their reality as “being wrong” in some way. Essentially, they have a set idea of how things “should be” at any given moment, and when reality ends up being different (not even necessarily bad), they get stressed.

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    This process is simply a result of perception and can be easily “fixed” by recognizing that although life might not always be going as YOU think it should, it’s still going as it should—for your own benefit.

    In fact, once you fully recognize that everything in your life ultimately happens for your own growth, progress, and development—so you can achieve your goals and dreams—your perception works in your favor. You soon process and respond to your experience of life differently, for your advantage. That’s the essence of becoming “rationally optimistic.”

    The result: no more mental stress.

    2. Unplug

    Just like you might need to unplug your computer when it starts acting all crazy, you should also “unplug” your mind.

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    How on earth do you unplug your mind? Simple: just meditate.

    It isn’t nearly difficult or complicated as some people think, so, if you don’t already meditate, give it a try. Whether you meditate for 5 minutes, 30 minutes, or 2 hours, this is a surefire way to reduce mental stress.

    Meditation has been scientifically proven to relax your body (resulting in less mental stress), while also reducing anxiety and high blood pressure.

    3. Easy on the Caffeine

    Yes, we know, we know—everyone loves a nice java buzz, and that’s okay, but there’s a fine line between a small caffeine pick-me-up and a racing heart and mind that throws you into a frenzy of mental stress.

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    Try giving up caffeine for a while and see how you feel. And, if that’s completely out of the question for you, at least try to minimize it. You might find that lots of your mental stress mysteriously “disappears” as your caffeine intake goes down.

    4. Attack Mental Stress Via the Back Door

    That’s right: your body and mind are part of the whole being, and are constantly influencing and affecting each other. If you’re experiencing a lot of mental stress, try to reduce it by calming your body down—a calm body equals a calmer mind.

    How do you calm your body down and reduce physical stress? A  great way to reduce physical stress (thereby reducing mental stress) is to take natural supplements that are proven to reduce stress and anxiety while lifting your mood. Three good ones to look into are kava-kava, St John’s wort, and rhodiola rosea:

    • Kava-kava is a natural plant known to have mild sedative properties, and you should be able to find it at your natural health food store or vitamin store. It’s available in capsules or liquid extract form.
    • St John’s wort is a natural flower used to treat depression. Again, it’s found at your local health store in capsules or liquid. Because it uplifts mood (enabling you to see the brighter side of all experiences) it helps relieve mental stress as well.
    • Rhodiola rosea is a natural plant shown to reduce stress and uplift mood, and Russian athletes have been using it forever. Like the other two supplements mentioned, rhodiola rosea can be found at your natural health store in capsule or liquid form.

    While these supplements are all natural and can be very helpful for most people, always check with your health care provider first as they can cause side-effects depending on your current health situation etc.

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    5. Good Old-Fashioned Exercise

    This tip has been around forever because it works. Nothing relieves mental stress like running, kickboxing—you name it. Anything super-physical will wipe out most of your mental stresses once the exercise endorphins (happy chemicals) are released into your brain.

    The result: mental stress will be gone!

    So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or just plain stressed, try using some of the above tips. You can even print this out or save it to refer to regularly.

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