In today's modern world, parents are constantly on the go, and kids are certainly no exception to the rule. From soccer practice to violin lessons, many young children are pushed towards becoming overscheduled in everyday life. However, according to new reports from VOA, researchers have found that children need downtime, and reducing the number of scheduled activities is an important aspect for parents to understand.
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For example, psychologist Lea Waters has studied the topic of children development in depth. In her book, The Strength Switch, Waters stresses the importance of helping children recognize their strengths, instead of only focusing on their weak points. Lea refers to this as "strength-based parenting" and emphasizes that parents should stop pushing their children to have too many responsibilities on their plate.
According to Waters, downtime isn't just about being lazy or having kids become totally passive. Instead, Waters explains her rationale with a clear metaphor. "It's a little bit like if you have too many programs running on your computer," Waters said. "Your computer starts to slow down. And when you shut these programs down, the computer speeds up again. It's very much like that for the child's brain." Whether it's an increased amount of extracurriculars or simply too much tutoring, Waters reminds parents to relax a little bit. Overscheduling is never a good thing, for parents or children, and it's important to understand that having too much on your plate can lead to heightened levels of stress and eventually, total burnout.
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Examples of downtime include letting kids choose a fun activity to engage in, whether it's playing outside with a ball or participating in some sort of arts and crafts project. During this time, kids aren't necessarily just fazing out completely, but rather, they're actually using this time to reset their brain. During downtime, the brain doesn't become totally inactive, and kids are still learning at all times. "[The brain] goes into this default network mode and uses that time to process all the information it had during the day, to integrate the new information," Waters explains.
Other researchers, like Mary Helen Immordino-Yang from the University of Southern California, agree wholeheartedly. For example, Immordino-Yang notes that the brain has two alternative systems, including on-task focus and free-form attention. With on-task focus, children are perceiving the environment around them, along with observing and paying attention to their surroundings.
At the end of the day, it's important for parents to remember that it's certainly all right to let kids be kids. There are many research studies which have proven the benefits of play, including how children can develop their imagination and social skills through playtime.
Do you agree with these new studies about downtime? Let us know in the comments!