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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 September 18, 2020

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

    Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

    Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

    1. Exercise Daily

    It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

    If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

    Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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    If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

    2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

    Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

    One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

    This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

    3. Acknowledge Your Limits

    Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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    Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

    Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

    4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

    Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

    The basic nutritional advice includes:

    • Eat unprocessed foods
    • Eat more veggies
    • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
    • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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    Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

      5. Watch Out for Travel

      Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

      This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

      If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

      6. Start Slow

      Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

      If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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      7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

      Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

      My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

      If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

      I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

      Final Thoughts

      Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

      Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

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      Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

      Reference

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