Rest & Relaxation: Why "Downtime" Is Important For Kids
Chill. Relax. Rest. Breathe. Everyone. Even the kiddos....especially the kiddos.
Busy. I feel like our culture has come to see being constantly busy with school and activities as a positive thing that helps children grow and evolve into well-rounded adults. Even at a young age, we are rushing children from one activity to another, not allowing them time to "veg", relax or maybe even rest as much as they need. While we are all just doing the best we can to be amazing mamas & papas while maintaining our own busy schedule, I ask you: "Is your child getting enough downtime?"
I bet several of you are shaking your heads "no" and several more of you are wondering why downtime is so dang important. Isn't busy good? Doesn't busy = engaged & learning?
In my opinion (as a mom and seasoned educator with 16 years of experience working with young children under her belt), the answer is: not always. Keeping children stimulated is indeed important to growth and learning, but our obsession with keeping children busy has swung too far in the other direction where children sometimes never get the opportunity to feel bored (and boredom is when creativity is born, in my opinion) and are often over-extended. Here is why it is important to consider how much downtime your child is getting in his/her day and making rest & relaxation a priority of childhood again:
Sleep is when they grow.
Did you know that the growth hormone is produced in the 4th stage of sleep? This is the hormone that helps sick children heal, brains hold onto knowledge learns in the day, and bodies to grow. If your child goes to bed late, even if they fall asleep the minute his/her head hits the pillow, their bodies will have less opportunity to spend as much time as needed in the 4th stage of sleep. Meaning that there is less time spent healing, growing, and retaining memories. The National Sleep Foundation has a great chart showing how much sleep your family should be getting in a 24 hour period (including naps). You can find it here.
The head and heart need a rest too.
Being a child is not only physically exhausting, but emotionally exhausting. Their brains are working overtime to absorb and process social situations, information, observations, and their own assessments of each event! It's tiring just thinking about. We adults need a break from the constant input of stimulation (that's what lunch breaks are supposed to be for), but children are still learning to listen to their own unique body cues and count on adults to help them find their rhythm. Schedule in a rest time each day for your child. Even if they no longer nap, they will benefit from an hour of quiet time reading, listening to mellow music, or quietly playing with toys. Quiet time can act almost as a time of meditation, helping children to recharge and their minds to rest. They may not love the idea of "quiet time" (my daughter certainly doesn't), but the benefits of this scheduled downtime in her day helps her to be at her best right until bed.
Stress leads to behavioral issues, inattention and even illness.
Think about how you feel when you are stressed and pulled in too many directions. Children absolutely feel stress too, but are not great at recognizing their need for a break and/or are not in control of their schedules to make time to decompress. When children are constant going, going, going....their stress levels can rise. Stress can lead to them to lashing out physically or verbally, having a difficult time focusing on important activities (like homework), and even weaken their immune systems causing them to be more susceptible to germs. Plus, when you're feeling stressed, you're not nearly as happy. And I think we can all agree that, above all else, we want our kids to be happy.
We want out kids to be successful. We want them to stay out of trouble...I mean, be engaged. We are all busy with work and school and extra-curricular activities, but rest and relaxation are absolutely important elements of a healthy balanced life. Just eating nutrient rich foods, drinking enough water, and exercising are habits we must foster in our children, teaching them to take a break and smell the roses is a valuable life skill that will help them to grow into healthy well-balanced adults.
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