As parents and caregivers start to look at getting kids back to school and scheduling those extracurricular activities, an important reminder to not overdo it.
Experts say downtime and unstructured play is crucial to a child’s development.
“The challenge that we see as parents and caregivers, is that we tend to think more is better, and that’s not always the case,” says Dr. Donna Milavetz, Executive Medical Director for Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah.
Milavetz says downtime is an important part of your child’s day.
“Kids aren’t always able to articulate that they’re burnt out, that they’re worn out, that there are too many things going on in their lives. ”
Parents should keep an eye out for the following signs of overscheduling in their kids:
Milavetz says overscheduled kids can also experience headaches and stomach aches.
She says to make sure you are in tune with your child’s needs by, “Having that conversation with them, checking in with them, how are you feeling about this, seeing what their interests are. ”
Milavetz says it is also a good idea to give your child a say in their scheduling, and to build in enough unscheduled time to allow kids to be more creative.
“Structured and unstructured play are so critical in our development,” says Milavetz.
Another thing to keep in mind – spending time on electronic devices is considered structured play, not downtime.
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, kids ages 8-12 spend 4-6 hours per day on devices. Teens can spend up to 9 hours per day.
“That’s alarming to me,” says Milavetz, reminding parents and caregivers to monitor screen time and build in time for friends, relaxing, or playing make believe…which enable healthy mental and physical development.