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NOTHING TO DO
Unscheduled, unstructured time – a rare commodity in today’s hectic society – is a gift to our children. This article is from Working Mother magazine. “Think back to your childhood. Chances are you can remember times when you had nothing more important to do than sit on the lawn and watch a grasshopper munch his way through a blade of grass or lying on your back watching clouds rolling past. Once upon a time, childhood seemed like an endless stretch of time, made just for daydreaming and exploring. That’s no longer true for most kids. As our lives have become busier, so have theirs. After a few decades of watching kids’ lives become increasingly structured and organized, child-development experts have come to believe that most could benefit from more time with nothing to do. What’s good about downtime?

• It gives them time to get creative. A child staring into space is accomplishing a lot. The brain’s incredible process of organizing and analyzing information needs time. Kids use what looks like downtime to sort through what they’ve learned. This cannot happen in front of a TV.

• It keeps them from burning out. Today’s kids are exhausted from being over structured. They need soli-tude and time to drift and find their own answers – not to be told what they should do next. Most kids don’t know when enough’s enough, so it’s up to parents to strike a balance. How can you tell? Kids get irritable and cranky. When everything is a struggle, you know it’s time for a change of pace.

• It helps them find themselves. Let kids be free to explore without the pressure of measuring up to somebody else’s expectations. If you send you kids outside to take a walk, you’re encouraging them to see what they’re interested in seeing, not something that an adult has told them to look for.

• It means we’re meeting their needs, not ours. There’s nothing wrong with helping a child develop a natural talent, but parenting has become a competitive sport. We need to clarify our own values, rather than allow ourselves and our families to be swept up in society’s high-pressure race to the finish line. It’s not easy. Saying “no” takes courage. We have to be able to say that living a bal-anced life is better than playing hockey.

• It shows we value them the way they are. Overdoing the extracurricular stuff can give our kids the message “There’s something wrong with you. Otherwise you wouldn’t need so much enrichment.” Constantly pushing practice and telling them they can do better adds to the notion that we’re set on improving them. When we just enjoy each other’s company, it shows kids we appreciate them, not for their successes, but for themselves.” That’s a most wonderful gift.

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