This wild ride of a school year is nearing its close, and parents and caregivers need a break. The hours spent overseeing our kids’ schooling on top of working from home have resulted in significantly heightened stress levels that have not returned to pre-Covid levels. In fact, as vaccination rates rise and more social activities resume, many of us feel the stress of that change.
Our brains need some downtime, and research confirms what we know intuitively: downtime is good for mental and physical health, mood, creativity, and overall well-being. This article shares why it is essential and some ideas for ways to fit in downtime for ourselves.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, your mind needs to wander to get the benefit of downtime. So even if we are busy and overscheduled, there are ways to plan to take these much-needed breaks.
And what about our kids? How do they get the rejuvenation they need this summer? While we may be tempted to put them into camps and activities to fill all their time (and make up for all they couldn’t do last summer), balance is essential.
It is important to know that screen time is not downtime. Contrary to the concept of chilling on the couch, our brain perceives screens as stimulating and not relaxing. Here are some ideas to encourage rejuvenating, unstructured summer downtime for kids as an alternative to screens.
Embrace Boredom: Having screen-free downtime can at first seem boring, and that’s because there is always a lag time before curiosity, creativity, and self-directed play kicks in. Just staring at the clouds or daydreaming is beneficial to brains and well-being, and if parents give in to the pressure to get back on screens, kids never get to the other side of boring and into the richness of their own imaginations.
Imaginative Play: It is fun to watch our kids reenact movie plot lines or stories from their favorite books. Another idea is imaginative play, where the plotlines are created by the children themselves. Designing their own costumes from bits and pieces has more impact on creative juices than store-bought costumes. Encouraging them to come up with their own imaginary worlds provides more opportunities to develop creativity.
Get out in Nature: Spending time in nature benefits well-being in many ways. Hike, go to the beach, and play in forests with your children this summer. Encouraging your child’s innate curiosity and observation is enough, but here are some activities you can do with them when you are together exploring outside.
Play as a Family: Use the longer days, warmer weather, and freer schedules to fit in time to play together. Hide and seek, kick the can, water fights, chalk drawing on the sidewalk: there are so many ways to laugh and play with family that provide deeper relationships and a greater sense of love and belonging.