If your children have a busier calendar than you do, you’re not alone.
According to a new report, many of us are well-meaningly filling our children’s days with educational extra-curricular activities – at the expense of free time.
The report, issued by child psychologist Dr Sam Wass (from Channel 4’s ‘Secret Life of 4 and 5 Year-Olds’) and Center Parcs, shows that parents are over-timetabling their children, leading to them ‘working’ up to 46 hours a week – that’s 9 hours more than the average adult!
Crucially, they’re left with an average of just one hour and 29 minutes of unstructured free time on a weekday.
How much free time does your child enjoy?
If your answer came out at any less than 3 hours and 51 minutes a day, you might be missing out…
The same report sets a new Free Time Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), developed by Dr Wass. It calls for children to enjoy an average of 3 hours and 51 minutes a day.
How to hit your RDA
If your child could do with a little more free time in their life, here are Dr Sam Wass’ tips to help children make the most of their free time:
Follow your child’s interests
Every child is interested in something. All you need to do is to support them, and provide what they need to help them develop their interests. And it helps if you can get them interested in what you’re interested in. It can be hard to switch off the button in your head saying ‘I’m in charge’ – but it’s really important to engage with your child, but still let you child set the agenda.
Don’t be scared to hear ‘I’m bored’
The first thing you’ll hear when you turn off the screens is the cry that they’re bored. But the more children get used to using their imagination to entertain themselves, the easier they will find it.
Screen time can be shared time, too
Even sitting playing a computer game with a child can be a great bonding experience, and can help the child to learn more from the game. Watching TV together can help to start up conversations, and to encourage them to watch a greater variety of different types of TV.
Help them to help themselves
There’s a saying that goes: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Well, the same applies to play! Children have to be taught how to play, and to develop their own structured, long-lasting projects that will allow them to entertain themselves without needing other forms of stimulation. You might have to sit with them, and support them for a while, as you teach them how to play productively. But what they learn from this process, in terms of lifelong skills is every bit – or possibly more – important than what they learn at school.
Want to know more? You can read the full report by Dr Sam Wass here.