Schedule structured and unstructured time for your kids

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Keeping kids busy, especially when school lets out for the summer, is extremely important for them to keep their minds and bodies active. Dozens of programs are being offered across Mid-Michigan and child experts say signing-up kids for structured activities is a great way for children to learn routine, explore interests, and meet others their own age. On the flip side, those same experts believe it’s crucial that parents schedule unstructured time as well.

“There’s quite a bit of research that shows downtime is really important for children,” says Dr. Holly Brophy-Herb with MSU’s Child and Family Development Department. “It helps in their emotional development, but also their cognitive skills.”

The type of growth studies show formulate better when kids are simply allowed the time to play with toys, imagine, or run around in the backyard. MSU Senior Educator Kendra Moyses says downtime can also potentially strengthen a child’s desire to stay committed and follow-through with the activity they’re taking a break from. 

“We want to be protective of our kids so they have that time to decompress, de-stress, have some fun and be silly with the family and just be a kid.”

Each child is different and parents need to determine what’s too much or not enough. Brophy-Herb says, just know it doesn’t take much for kids to feel overwhelmed.

“It’s tricky for parents because we want the best for our children and we want to expose them to all kinds of exciting things, but it’s often easier for children to handle just one or two things that they really like.”

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