Downtime for Young Children – Mom of 3

Hi Dr. Ann,

I have three young children and there are many activities they could be involved in. Is there such a thing as over-scheduling them?

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor Advice

Dear Marizol,

Because you have three kids of three different ages, they’re all going to require different amounts of scheduled activities, and by the same token, different amounts of downtime. She has to make sure that no matter what activity she’s involving her kids in, she’s watching for those signals and cues that indicate that they need some downtime.

There is such a thing as too much activity for young children.

When it comes to scheduling activities for your children, you really have to know your own child’s personality. Some kids need more activity than others. For example, most kids love being outside; but there are other kids that like to observe more than other kids, and who are perfectly happy sitting inside.

That’s OK. It just shows that all kids are different and need different amounts – and kinds – of activities.

Activities build relationships in their lives with the people around them.

The most important thing to keep in mind when being tempted to enroll your kids in all kinds of activities is that children are trying to build relationships in their lives with the people around them.

The way they do that is by spending time and getting attention from people, not with objects or activities. A child can’t learn the social-emotional skills he needs if the important adults in their lives aren’t there to provide them with that very important interaction and relationship.

The motivator to play and to do everything else in their lives is to have those relationships with somebody else. So make whatever you do with your children interactive. The activity in and of itself isn’t the goal. It’s for them to learn about themselves through activity and through those meaningful relationships.

Kids need time in between activities to mellow out and hang out.

Even something like driving from one scheduled activity to another can be too much – for both parents and children. You want to consider the fact that you might even be over-scheduling yourself, and that’s something that could affect your relationship and interactions with your child. Everyone needs time to just “be.”

Even in a child care setting where there is very often a daily schedule, they usually provide time for kids to just play, to engage themselves in the activities and play that they want to do.

Because some kids require more of this downtime than others, we encourage a healthy dialogue between parents and providers. They should talk about the child’s personality and how much downtime the child needs. You’re creating a new family with your child’s provider, so you need to create that dialogue.

Dr. Ann Corwin, The Parenting Doctor

Reprinted from A Place of Our Own

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