Downtime Tips

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests children need an hour of downtime a day. Downtime is truly unstructured, go play time. It can be a child with friends or siblings, but it doesn’t have to be, the idea is it’s up to them. This is child lead play when the individual child is in charge of their own agenda. It can truly be unproductive time, it can even be a half hour spent finding shapes in passing clouds or watching the rain drops on a window. If your children aren’t up to an hour a day, set this as a goal. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Turn off the TVs and computers – Screentime is anti-downtime. Children who are passively viewing are still being otherwise entertained. Set family limits for screentime and respect them moving forward.
  • It is okay if they are bored – When children whine and complain about being bored, it often means they haven’t had enough practice with downtime. They need more practice at entertaining themselves.
  • Avoid too many structured activities – Children who are constantly on the go to lessons, classes, clubs and playgroups may not have enough downtime. This is especially true for those having to additionally tag along to their siblings’ activities. It’s good practice to look at the overall family schedule, put downtime on the calendar if you have to.
  • Start small – If this is a new concept to your family, start with 10 to 15 minute stretches, then gradually increase the time.

Downtime provides a great opportunity for children to develop their imagination and creativity. It is a chance to build their own stories and games. Downtime also challenges different social skills than what are practiced in more structured activities.

Author: Dr. Rene Hackney

With a MA in school psychology and a PhD in developmental psychology, I founded and work as a parent educator at Parenting Playgroups. Somewhere in there I trained in the Developmental Clinic at Children's NMC and in the public schools. I have two beautiful, funny children who make me practice what I preach most everyday.

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