What is Downtime and why do kids need Downtime?
In my past few posts, I have shared that kids need downtime. And I really mean it, they do need, science has proved it. But something strange happened the other day, as a result of which I planned to share my thoughts and some facts wrt Downtime for kids.
Kids are #backtoschool and so their routine is all decked up. With the constant rise in expectations and competition, kids are continuously juggling between school, home, scholastics and co-scholastics. Most of the kids have more than 5 days of extra curricular activities and they are consistently working towards the set expectations. Children are in an overwhelmingly stressed situation today. For what? To perform socially, academically, in their co-scholastics, be it sports, music, drama, robotics and much more. From the morning when they hurry up for school, till evening, when they hurry up for their classes, today kids are too busy, than what we were.
Keeping a child engaged is a great step and we all feel so. It’s right, but not always. We need to demarcate between Engaged and overly engaged schedule for kids. I’m for sure not against “Engaged kids”, if you are managing kids “Free Play time” and a Downtime daily as a parent.
Being a child is Physically and Emotionally exhausting!
Okay, so let’s take the situation on us. With ample responsibilities, home, job, social life, we feel being pulled towards stress most of the times, don’t we? So is the case with children, when they are in control of tight schedules for the full day. Children do not understand the need of break to de-stress and hence they usually don’t express it. But if they are always on the run for the scheduled activities, they are certainly experiencing that stress.
Screen time as Downtime?
We were having a discussion with moms, and few of the moms said, kids have lots of Downtime, as they watch videos and play games on their screens. Well, is that the downtime we are talking about? Did you know that being on the screen is also over stimulating for a child and it does not calms the brain, rather keeps it in an excited mode. We all have heard that kids should be in a calm zone (reading books, story time, have light talks) atleast 30-40minutes before their bed time. As these activities calms down the brain and helps in a quality sleep. A screen time just before bed never gives that calmness to the brain.
True potential of downtime is away from screen. Having some free – unstructured time is what we are talking about here. And be it just 30-40 minutes a day, every child must have that free downtime wherein no instructions are set in, no specific activity is focussed upon.
Remember this precious time is not a waste. This time is must for kids to rejuvenate, to know their innate creativity, to calm their brain and really allow them to do what they love. This time consolidates their learnings and experiences, help them regulate their emotions, all of which is a necessary part of kids growth.
Why should you implement “Downtime” for kids ?
1. Kids love this Unstructured time :
When whole day is scheduled, kids miss out those small moments full of fun and giggles. Add that unplanned family time, when you speak to your child, listen to their feelings. Let them be kids at that time and allow them to do what they love. This is must for them to understand their interests, have fun without anyone seriously monitoring them. Ensure, no screens!
2. Welcome Boredom :
When kids are structured and engaged for full day, we cannot expect them to sit quietly for a moment and get bored. Often when kids say, I’m getting bored, we rush in and give a new game or play some video for them to ignore the boredom. Do you really feel that occasional boredom is a sad feeling? The more kids learn to cope up with their boredom on their own, the more creative they will be. Read out my post on how occasional boredom makes kids more creative. Kids use the bore time to entertain themselves. They devise new means and modes on their own.
3. Downtime helps in de-stressing :
Stress for kids increases with lots of structured activities and expectations from each one of them. This can often be noticed in the form of Emotional distress, sudden outbursts, verbal lash outs, lack of focus on more important things. This in turn can hamper the quality of sleep and even body’s Immune system. Thus a true, screen free downtime is must to relax and de-stress.
4. Independent Play :
Do kids have the time to think of the existing problems and devising their solutions? Downtime promotes an independent play and it aids cognitive and emotional development. Problems need solutions and kids can best come out with the solutions in this downtime. Those who are always occupied with studies, screens, extra curricular activities, socializing, don’t actually have the time to think upon and use their brains independently.
Independent play is an important skill which kids need to learn and downtime is perfect to promote this independence.
5. Cognitive Development :
Downtime, promotes creative and cognitive development of a child. During their downtime hour, they can be seen creating their own innovations, do some pretend plays. All of this helps in overall cognitive development.
“If I talk about myself, my child goes for sports, storytelling and dance, all structured in a week. But he daily has 1 hour to himself. He gets bored, he runs and ask me to help. I really don’t plan to interfere but yes I do observe that time. Within 5 minutes, a 3.5 year old child is back to his innovations. Sometimes, he is seen making a transformer out of blocks, at other time I see him making a colourful highway with his dough. He runs, shows me his art and a long explanation of what it is and why he made. Similar is the case during his evening bath time of around 15-20 minutes, wherein he is consistently exploring things his way and coming out of something new, which none taught him.”
Isn’t this time productive mama’s? It is not just productive, but it is enriching and helps foster creativity and sums up a child’s learnings.
Remember, teaching kids to pause, take a break, smell the fragrance around, listen to your heart and soul is as important as trying to inculcate good habits and a disciplined lifestyle. Childhood is the phase to have the real fun, we miss it now. Let kids have that “unstructured, free time” daily to really cherish their Childhood!
I would like to read your thoughts on the proposed Downtime. How do you manage your child’s activities and your stories of kids innovations around Downtime.