by Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD
When it’s the season for browsing camp brochures, choosing travel teams, signing up for dance class and Tae Kwon Do, registering for swimming lessons, and picking a piano teacher, family life can get crazy. If we don’t prioritize “down time,” we don’t have much of it left.
“Down time” includes relaxing, resting, not being hurried or rushed, and not being interrupted. It’s when you’re given vast freedom to do or play whatever you want.
Here are a few ways to prioritize down time with young children:
- Snuggle on the couch or in bed first thing in the morning – Just sit together, read a few books, or talk about the day ahead of you.
- Have free time outside every day – Bring your kids outside to play at the park, on the street, at the arboretum, in the forest, or in the yard every day.
- Plan a restful vacation – Plan a simple vacation in nature where kids can fish, play in the woods, ride bikes, swim, catch frogs, or play board games (instead of waiting in huge roller coaster lines, driving 10+ hours in a car, or going to busy museums).
- Have quiet time or an early bedtime – Give kids the opportunity to read, daydream, snuggle a stuffed animal, or relax before they “pass out” from exhaustion. Give yourself time in your bed before you fall into a coma.
- Movie night – Make Friday night movie night, with an early dinner, popcorn, and a family movie.
- Resist every class – While it can seem super important to teach your kids hockey or robotics at an extremely early age, signing up for only a few things at a time protects the down time kids need.
Down time helps kids feel less stressed, more connected, and more rested. It carves out room for adventure, exploration, and fun. It frees up energy and passion for the things kids really love.
Erin Leyba, LCSW, PhD is a psychotherapist for individuals and couples in Chicago’s western suburbs. She specializes in counseling for parents of babies and young children. www.erinleyba.com or firstname.lastname@example.org On Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/www.parenthappy.org
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