parenting, stress and too many social activities for children

Some parents and kids are overwhelmed with activities.

At my daughter’s 4th birthday party, a friend of mine lamented that it must have been easier to be a parent a few decades ago. Parenting today is like being the activity and entertainment director on a cruse ship. It seems like the boat will sink if the kids have five minutes of unscheduled down time. No playdate, no gymnastics, no theater class—chaos!

The parents of preschoolers I know are much more concerned about their children being socialized (learning to share, getting along with the group, etc.) than with the value of alone time for their kids. Play dates trump independent play any day.

Sometimes the activities also serve to give the parent a breather during a long day, which is important, but that can be achieved through independent play as well.

For the child, alone time is essential in the development of an authentic self. Children need time to free play, daydream, be creative, and discover who they are. This cannot be achieved hopping from one organized activity to another.

Kids need to be armed with some knowledge of who they are, before their peer group and social media defines it for them. So while the socialization process is immensely important, parents shouldn’t forget about what alone time can do for their children.

The following are ways to help your little ones get some alone time:

  • Set aside a period of quiet time each day where the TV is off and your child is encouraged to play alone. Start with small increments of time and then increase.

  • Have your child choose a toy at the store that is specifically designated for quiet time.

  • Activities for one tend to be more successful when the child is well rested.

  • Starting an activity like coloring and then inching away so that she finishes alone can help a reluctant child.

  • Playing with your child one-on-one and modeling imaginative play is a great way to help them learn how to use their imaginations on their own.

  • Sand and/or water transfix most preschoolers and are a great way to encourage playing alone.

  • For children with siblings, allow time each day for them to play separately.

  • Before signing up for organized activities, plot them out on your calendar to make sure you haven’t overscheduled your child.

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