Children Need Constructive Free Time

I used to think that giving children hours and hours of free play was good for them. That they could explore and create to their hearts content and it would nurture their minds. I've concluded that this isn't entirely true. While having some dedicated free time for exploration is good, hours and hours of it is actually unhealthy - at least for my children.

I have 5 children - all in different stages. Their ages are 8, 5, 3, 2, and 2 months, currently.

They each have individual needs which are not only unique to their age, but also to their personality and character. I have tried grouping them together to do things and most of the time it is just not in their best interest. Either I lose someone from being too challenging or I lose someone from being too easy.

Children need free time, but it needs to be constructive rather than aimless. I can't think of one "pro" of aimless free time. But I have many cons as a result:

  • sibling rivalry
  • large messes
  • boredom
  • whining/screaming (and lots of it)
  • lack of personal attention (which has it's own set of problems)
  • wasted time
  • wasted resources
  • wasted energy
  • discontentment

I really could go on.

hands by sprittibee, on Pix-O-Sphere

All of these issues have come up in my own children as I've allowed this aimless free time. They are young now and exhibiting these less than ideal traits as a result. But if allowed to continue on this path, the ending result would probably be much more costly.

June of A Wise Woman Builds Her Home said,

"Idle time is the devil's playground."

In fact, she wrote a whole post about it. I couldn't agree more. Just as we need to manage our time to be productive, we also need to manage our children's time so that they are productive and their minds are positively engaged.

Having a schedule really helps with this (at least I'm told!) I have struggled with being disciplined enough to stick to a schedule. I have one printed out and hung up, but don't follow it.

I wrongfully believed the above and it honestly cost me more time and emotional (as well as physical) energy in the long run.

So, here I sit, sharing the conflict side of the story because I have not yet implemented the resolution side. I can't write about something I haven't lived. BUT, if you come back in a week, I'll let you know how it's going :)