Len Saunders, author of Keeping Kids Fit, says one of the best ways to teach your kids to maintain busy but balanced schedules is leading by example. "Children follow their parents as their number one role models," he notes, so it's important to make sure you have your own schedule in order before trying to manage theirs. "Show them how to keep their responsibilities written down on a notepad and to keep track of their own tasks, whether it be at school or play." When they go to college and are on their own, he points out, they'll have to be able to balance work, play, eating, social life and much, much more.
Because it's not just about fitness (although that's huge), Sarah Clachar, family fitness expert, professional health writer and founder of FitFamilyTogether.com, says young kids often do better with activities in a family setting. "It gives you the chance to strengthen bonds and work out tough issues. Focus on what you can do together with the precious time you do have outside of school and work, such as biking, kicking the soccer ball around or whatever." Kids need time to be kids, she notes — wonder, get bored, get resourceful, etc.
Christine Agro of The Conscious Mom's Guide is a firm believer in the fact that kids need down time. "If we over schedule our kids, we never give them the opportunity to learn how to 'just be,' and they grow up believing that every second of their life needs to be full and scheduled." Encourage kids to play outside, to lie on the grass and look at the clouds, to sit and read or to just do nothing. Give them unstructured space where they need to figure out how to fill their own time, without video games, phones or television, she advises.
If your kid has a really busy day (back-to-back activities), try to remember to sprinkle in a few really fun ones to avoid meltdowns, offers Bryce Gruber, mom and editor of The Luxury Spot. "Speech class, piano lessons and a math tutor might be your idea of a perfect Tuesday, but if so, you're heading straight for a brick behavior wall. Balance one fun and one purely educational activity every day (or week) so your child isn't overwhelmed."
Don't forget to leave enough room for snack and potty breaks between each activity! "Kids are like natural stress detectors, and they totally know when you're rushing from one place to the next," says Bryce. "They always perform better when they feel like everyone around them is calm." So remember, keep your cool and just slow down.
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