Backyard Discovery Blog
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Home for the holidays: How much leisure time do kids really need?
During the busy holiday season, there is always lots of shopping, planning, and never stopping. But, with the time off from school and work, holiday vacations can be a great time for parents and children to enjoy some much needed leisure time. Leisure time is also crucial during the rest of the year, when kids’ schedules often keep them tied up minute by minute, day after day. It’s important for both kids and parents to understand the value of time off.
Don’t overlook free time.
Sometimes parents are guilty of creating overwhelmingly busy schedules for their kids, between school, sports, and extracurricular activities. This can result in pressure and stress for both the child and parent. It’s essential to allow kids to experience, and learn to appreciate, down time. Help them choose and prioritize activities, which can help them with decision making skills later in life. Let them find the joys of leisure time hanging out in the backyard or having fun in a playhouse.
Show them how it’s done.
When parents are stressed and overly busy, it’s easy for kids to follow their example. When parents place value on leisure time, kids will learn to do the same. So instead of being glued to your email or constantly checking your phone, create opportunities to just hang out and do nothing. Consider getting them a leisure time playhouse, for some outdoor fun everyone can enjoy. Fill your home with activities like arts and crafts, quiet reading time, playing cards, and anything that inspires spontaneous fun and creativity. Avoid video and computer games, since they tend to take up more leisure time with fewer cognitive and physical benefits. This can especially be done while everyone has some much-needed time away from work and school during the holidays.
Communicate with your kids.
When kids are busy, it’s easy for parents to assume they know how their kids feel. Check in with them and see if how they are feeling about their various activities. Encourage them to be open, and try to help them decide how they would like to spend their free time. It also helps to have plenty of options for them to keep themselves entertained at home, like books to simulate the mind or a leisure time playset to help them maintain physical activities as well.
Find leisure time for the family.
Everyone is constantly being tugged in different directions because of work, school, and other commitments. Set an example for the whole family by creating shared opportunities for leisure time. Pick a day of holiday vacation and decide as a family what you will do. Plan a movie marathon. Or spend the day playing with the backyard playset. When you make family leisure time sacred, everyone will benefit.
Find the balance between planned and unplanned.
Write down the schedule of activities you have planned for the kids. Take a hard look at how much time is left open, or undecided. Maybe you don’t have to accept every holiday party invitation or playdate. Sometimes, it’s ok to let kids linger around the house for some unplanned leisure time. Help fill the moments of leisure time with enriching activities, toys, or even an outdoor playhouse.
Let kids be bored.
When your kids complain about boredom, it’s ok to let them figure it out for themselves. While it might be disheartening to see them wasting time, it’s an important lesson to help them be in charge of their own time–and entertainment. Sometimes, it’s easy to cave and hand your kids an iPad to keep the busy. But try to stay strong, and suggest that perhaps they go outdoors, and use their leisure time with the backyard playhouse; or grab a book and find a comfy spot to read.
Sometimes, when it comes to planned activities for you and your children, less is more. Find time to appreciate leisure time and everyone will reap the benefits.