In our fast-paced world, we are always forward thinking, focusing on innovation and what's next. While that is true at Laurence, we also value the benefits of tradition and going back to the basics. At last month's Back to School Night, I spoke about a recent article I read titled, "Three Things Overscheduled Kids Need More of in Their Lives," which cited research from Dr. Denise Pope of the Stanford Graduate School of Education. Dr. Pope's research emphasizes the importance of playtime, downtime and family time (or "PDF"). This concept and the research behind it is exceptionally important for our children.
On the surface, PDF is about slowing down and connecting. While it may seem obvious that these are good practices, research indicates that the benefits run deep. In fact, these three factors "protect kids against a host of negative outcomes, strengthen resilience, and bolster students' mental wellness and academic engagement." The research also suggests that children need some P, D and F every day! Let's explore what that can look like and ways to implement this in your daily routines.
Children need deliberate, intentional opportunities for technology-free, unstructured playtime every day. Playtime allows children to self-direct their activities, explore, and imagine.
Creating this time for your kids can be as simple as sending them to After School Play with a friend, instead of signing them up for another structured activity. At home, ensure that your kids have plenty of non-tech play items to choose from - sports equipment, art supplies, Lego sets, dress-up clothes, musical instruments... creating an engaging home environment will allow your child to tap into their imagination and choose their own adventure!
While extracurricular activities may seem like playtime, they are often highly structured, and the choice of activity is not always self-directed. Sports can also be highly competitive, causing added stress and pressure for some kids.
I know for many of us, the inclination is to sign your child up for a myriad of enrichment activities. You want your child to explore areas of interest and find their passion, or you think that they will miss out on something. But it's good for our brains to have downtime!
Try building in a buffer for your child to rest and relax in between daily activities. For example, plan a half hour of rest in between school and practice for your kids to sit and have a snack, or play with family pets before heading off to the next activity. Help them to engage in restful, calming activities before bedtime, such as taking a bath, listening to relaxing music, or reading. Included in downtime is also sleep! Make sure your kids are getting plenty of sleep and try to avoid screen time before bedtime. Most importantly, we feel strongly that bedrooms should be technology free zones. Judgment may become even more compromised when they are tired and alone with technology.
Without a doubt, family time is the most important part of PDF! Dr. Pope's research found that "when kids are part of a family unit that spends time together, they are more likely to feel supported, safe, and loved unconditionally. They also have increased self-esteem and better academic outcomes."
However, finding moments for family time is often the most difficult to accomplish with so many competing schedules. Recognizing the time constraints, just do the best you can to create daily moments to connect and talk. Strive to have family dinners together a few times each week. If you can't do dinner, try family dessert or family snack time. Take a family walk. Bedtime is also a wonderful opportunity for connection - those tender moments before bed, pouring over a good book and talking, are some of my fondest memories with my own kids.
For more parent resources based on Dr. Pope's research, take a look at her Challenge Success website.