Do you find yourself rushing your kids almost daily from school, to homework, to one activity to the next – only to find yourselves back home with little time before your heads hit the pillow?
In today’s world, many of us are guilty of overscheduling ourselves and our kids. Our efforts to multitask, help our kids keep up academically, and get them engaged in hobbies that they love can come at a price.
Busy schedules without room for downtime can get kids (and parents) seriously stressed and burnt out.
The Importance of Having Downtime
We all know it feels nice to have a little free time to unwind and relax.
But did you know that not giving kids that time can actually lead to some negative consequences?
Ongoing academic demands can lead students to become stressed. 66% of kids have reported feeling stressed about grades. And this type of stress has been shown to impact children’s academic performance and mental health, resulting in issues like depression and anxiety.
Intentionally building in some downtime into our kids’ schedules can help combat those negative effects of potential stress.
Psychologist Lea Waters compares this time without scheduled activities to resetting a computer that may have too many programs running at once.
Waters states that when kids reset their brains while engaging in fun, unstructured activities, it allows them to have time to process the information from the day and “integrate new information.”
If your child’s calendar is filled with birthday parties, baseball games, and tutoring, there are still some simple ways to incorporate daily downtime.
#1: Deep Breathing
Teach your child how to engage in deep breathing by talking to him or her about taking big, slow breaths through their nose and letting the air out of their mouth.
In the evening after a busy day, lay on the floor with your kids. Show them how to do belly breathing, making their stomachs rise and lower with each breath. Taking a stuffed animal for a “ride” as it sits on their tummy and other deep breathing exercises can make this a fun, soothing activity for all.
#2: Free Play
According to experts, kids’ brains don’t need to be totally inactive during downtime. But they can benefit from having some time in default mode, where they aren’t focused on a specific activity.
Work in some time each day where your kids can play with what they chose, in whatever ways they come up with. Playing alone, with a family member, or with a friend can help kids learn about and understand the world around them.
#3: Go Outside
There’s nothing like getting fresh air.
Relax with your kids by eating dinner outside on the patio or having popsicles on the porch. Being in nature while taking a walk or doing activities like gardening benefits mental well-being for both kids and grown-ups.
#4: Turn on the Tunes
Turn on Taylor Swift’s newest song or whatever your child’s latest favorite happens to be!
Listening to music, singing, and dancing are fun ways to take brain breaks throughout the day.
Set aside quiet reading time in the house where your children (and you!) can find a cozy spot and curl up with a favorite book. Read together or alone to help relieve stress from the day and escape into a story.
Whether it’s playing a sport, swimming, or running around in the backyard, exercise can be a great way for kids to clear their heads and relieve stress.
Exercise is a known stress-reliever for adults too! An evening family bike ride after a day of sitting at a desk or in the car can relax your body and mind.
#7: Stimulate the Senses
Engaging the senses can create some nice calming effects for kids.
Let bathtime last a little longer so your child has time to feel the bubbles and explore the water. Here are some other fun ways that your kids can explore and help their bodies get tactile (touch) input:
- Sensory bins
- Sensory walls
- Play with slime, sand, or fingerpaint.
Parents report that pleasant sensory activities help calm and “recenter” their children.
Services that can Help
If you or your child’s teacher have concerns about your child’s communication, fine motor, or gross motor skills that could be leading to stress, consider therapy that will help your child improve abilities in these areas.