Scheduling Play

A couple weeks ago I came to realization that I am over scheduling my kids, especially my eldest (who is in first grade). He has a sport, scouts, and participates in a school club. This takes up two to three evenings a week as well as Saturdays. He has fun toys, games, and books which he is too busy to enjoy much less time for him to explore his own creativity.

Spring break I had daily activities planned for my kids, but what they really enjoyed most was pajama day. This day they were able to stay in their pajamas all day and play around the house. Yes, they even wore their pajamas when we picked up pizza for lunch. It was a good break for me too because I was able to catch up on a few work tasks. (Still working on the balance between home and career.)

All of these activities he participates in seemed pretty normal to me as his peers are involved in many of the same. However, it became evident when I was planning for summer that I might have fallen into the over scheduling trap. We are fortunate to live in a community with a plethora of options for summer activities. Even though much is available, none are necessary. I had to sit back and consider what camps he wants to participate along with his one need for the summer, swim lessons. The choice was made he would participate in three camps, for a total of two and a half weeks. Since pajama day was such a hit, as well as an eye-opener for me, we will have a few of those this summer too!

The over scheduling phenomena is not just one occurring in my house, but across the nation. Doctors are beginning to prescribe play for kids and encouraging parents to decrease the activities for their children. Kids need time to be kids, and families need time to be families. The unstructured time allows kids to express their own creativity as well as develop their own interests. Time as a family allows for bonds to built and family values instilled. Dr. Lonzer, from the Cleveland Clinic, recommends parents schedule twenty minutes of family time, five days per week. She states, “This practice has proven effective in developing imagination and increasing family bonding, which decreases risk-taking behaviors and even weight problems as kids get older.” (https://health.clevelandclinic.org/is-your-child-overscheduled-kids-need-down-time/)

Having a packed schedule also increases the amount of stress in the home. Getting ready to go places, and being there on time, is not a calming event when many people are involved. Then, arriving home from the activity to complete dinner, homework, and showers at a quick enough pace to get to bed somewhat close to bedtime only adds to the stress. Prolong stress takes a toll on mental and physical health. Additionally, a daily routine cannot be formed when each day entails something different. Reliable routines foster stability in young children.

As you plan for summer break and activities for the next school year, schedule in a couple days of downtime each week.

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