We've all said it at some point.....I wish there were more hours in the day.
The pressure is tremendous today to give kids all the opportunities they need to become a well-rounded person. The minute they are born, we want what is best for them. We want them to have a wealth of opportunity and experience. But do we TRULY believe doing more things is the answer or is it pressing in on us from the outside?
What I am proposing may be a bit controversial, but I believe it with all my heart. If we want what is best for our kids, we need to start doing less, not more.
I have seen it first hand. A kid being rushed from the soccer field, with fast food in hand, to make it to their karate practice or their dance recitial, tears flowing, child (or parent) kicking and screaming! Is this what children need? Is that benefitting them? Is this really what is best for them?
I confess that, as my children get closer to college age, I wonder if they are doing enough to stand out. Should they be doing more in the coummunity? Do they have a "good enough" resume to be accepted at a good college? Recently, the answer hit me like a ton of bricks. If a college wants a list of activities so long that my child would never have down-time or time to play and relax - then that college is not going to be a good environment for my child to thrive in.
Anxiety and depression are alarmingly on the rise among U.S. children. School counselors are seeing evidence of this first-hand. But this isn't just about teens. Young children are caught in the busyness trap, too.
Young children are feeling the pressure to perform in school due to a test-based model in most public school systems. To come home from a stressful school environment, be rushed off to practice, do homework and start all over again is more than many of our kids can handle - or should have to handle!
So, what can we do about it? Give our kids time to PLAY, time to REST, time to RECOVER.
There is a misguided sense in American culture that downtime is wasted time. That could not be farther from the truth.
I have seen the results of giving kids opportunity to play firsthand. As a Timbernook provider, I am able to watch kids flourish as they readily delve into child-directed free time in the woods. The results are often astounding. Kids who are often anxious become calm. Creativity gives rise to elaborate play scenarios. As children make choices about what to do with their time, they grow more confident.
When children have time for unstructured play - play that is not directed by an adult - play where there is no expected outcome - they are able to practice decision making, problem solving and develop a sense of self.
As an occupational therapist, we say that, "Play is the work of childhood." What this means is that while on the outside children are playing, their bodies and minds are working hard to develop and grow strong. Play time is not wasted time!
So, rather than trying to put more on your calendar in an effort to better your child, how about taking some things off your calendar? Give your kids a chance to play. Not only will it help them in the moment, it gives them a strong foundation to blossom into their best selves.