Our children are a lot busier than we ever were as children.
Not only are their schedules full of physical activities (before and after school), such as swimming lessons, music lessons, sport, dance and other creative activities which are all really GOOD things, kids are also mentally a lot busier and more stimulated. The average 4-5 year old spends 30% of their waking time in front of a screen (AIFS). All this busyness can mean little time for free play, reading a book, or just hanging out with family and friends. As parents we need to stop and ask ourselves, ‘What are my kids missing out on?’ because of all this mental and physical busyness?’
Children do a lot when they are given space and time to just be. Similar to when we sleep, much is happening in the brain of a toddler and pre-schooler (and older children too) when it may seem like nothing is happening. Having down time to just be without screens, devices, music or other structured activities allows brains to think their own thoughts, be creative, make social connections and observations through free play, creative expression and role playing.
Often, we might use screen time as an incentive or disincentive for desired behaviour. What would happen if instead you offered your undivided attention for 30 minutes instead? Offering to spend 30 minutes with no set activity or agenda, just an openness for your child to direct the time and lead you in how they would like you to be with them (within limits obviously). Be realistic about what you can do in the timeframe to avoid unnecessary frustrations both yours and theirs). The next time you have 30 minutes free offer to spend it with your child either; reading a book for fun (not a school reader), going outside and watching the cloud shapes or stars at night, playing with paint, play dough or another free form craft medium that has no set goal or outcome, or just relaxing, talking and doing nothing together. If you offer these times regularly and allow your child to direct your special times, they will learn that they have choices, healthy influence, a voice and great ideas plus they learn that you value them as a unique person that is fun to spend time with. In allowing time for your child to be, they actually discover who they are and you get to be a part of that. Now that’s way better than the messages they will get on social media!
Happy parenting Young Discoverer friends.