We're so quick to say that children growing up today will never know what downtime is like. And it is not because they are engrossed in technology but because their schedules are so full that when they do get downtime, they are just really exhausted and the result is them being glued in front of their TVs, tablets and consoles.
Why play time is important
It is crucial for your child's social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth.
Nothing is more important than time spent with a parent and a structured life can destroy this.
It prevents: exhaustion, aggression, frustration, stress-levels and bad eating habits.
If you think I am making excuses for children, I am really not. Children as young as four years are under so much pressure to excel at sport, dancing, music, ballet, and the like, all while keeping up with their school work. The average South African child leaves home at 7am, and will only get to bed at 10pm and that is only if their homework is complete - include some family drama, and you are dealing with an over-exhausted anxious child.
I am not saying that sport is not important – but when parents and children become too busy to spend time with each other, that is when things need to be reassessed. To a child, nothing is more important than time spent with a parent.
While there are great benefits for children being involved in a number of extramural activities, such as having a wider circle of friends, increased self-confidence, encouraging teamwork, leadership, and discipline - children need unstructured, unscheduled play time and quality time with their parents'. It is crucial for your child's social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth.
Signs that they need their schedules revised
- They are always tired
- Aggression and frustration
- School reports show a drop in performance
- They are stressed out
- Homework is incomplete
- Fussy eating or not wanting to eat at all
- They do not want to go to school
- They want to stop taking part in an activity even if they are good at it
How you can help
- Get the balance right
- Make sure your child gets downtime in his or her day
- Limit screen-time
- Unstructured playtime is vital
- Children should also be able to play alone
- Young children need about 10 hours of sleep a night
- Avoid junk food – a healthy diet and getting their vitamin dose helps