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03.20.18 Cover Image Downtime for your kids

Planning the family Summer…

Have you ever started a puzzle without all of the pieces? How about one that keeps changing as you put pieces into place? That’s how planning the summer feels to me. It’s not an easy task: Where do I start? Are we going on a vacation? Camps or hire a sitter? What’s our budget? What are the kids’ friends doing? And how will I get my work done juggling it all?

Typically, I plug in summer vacation, away camp if the kids are going and then look at what’s left. I have learned the hard way that not enough camps and activities translate to stress for Mom. Which, in turn, is hard on the entire family. I could just schedule them every week, as they love camps, sports, swimming … But is that what’s best for them? For me? For the family?

As I was thinking about this, I came across an article, The downside of no downtime for kids”, that was about balancing your summer plans to build character in your kids and create stronger family connection.

In the article, Dorothy Sluss, an associate professor of elementary and early childhood education at James Madison University and president of the U.S. chapter of the International Play Association, said that for every week of intensive activity or sleepaway camp, children need three weeks of less-structured time.

A 3-1 ratio. How does that sound to you?

Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, author of “The Over-Scheduled Child,” said, “Hard and fast rules on numbers of activities or hours of free time aren’t necessary. Parents should listen to their instincts. If you sense you’ve gone beyond the tipping point, cut back 5 percent, cut back one night a week, have a ‘no-activity day’ twice a month. You’ll feel you have to yell at your kids a little less and that you’re not in crazy zone anymore.”

In the past, I’ve tried to stay to around a 1-1 ratio of unstructured to structured time in the summer. And I have to say the first week of downtime is really hard as kids do exactly what you’d think they would – fight and ask for screen time. But once they realize I’m holding my ground, they get past it and start being creative, they read books, talk, play and have fun.  This ratio seems to work for me.

What do you do? What’s the right ratio for your family?

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You may also want to check out:

The Benefits of Under-Scheduling Your Child by Education.Com

A Cure for Hyper-Parenting by Pamela Druckerman

 

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