Some families have well-behaved kids–at home and when they are out of routine. When kids are out of their routine and schedule, it can sometimes be impossible to get them to behave–no swinging from hotel chandeliers or falling into hotel pools intentionally. Trying to keep your monkeys in check can be a challenging task as parents!
Unstructured time is both the beauty of childhood and also sometimes the bain of a parent’s existence.
How do you meaningfully fill this time?
How do you encourage independent play?
How do you remain patient and engaged as a parent?
With BLOOM’s help, you can positively adjust your thinking around unstructured time. For more help with parenting and communicating with your child, discover BLOOM courses Parenting a Needy Child and Impulsivity.
The Benefits of Unstructured Time
In a nonstop world, many parents jump on the treadmill of parenthood and hardly slow down enough to take a breath until their kids graduate high school. As it turns out, there are substantial developmental benefits to unstructured time. So, while your instinct may always be to fill the empty time, understanding the value of that time can help you embrace it and make it intentional for your child.
There are countless benefits of unstructured time that parents should embrace and emphasize. While structure during the school day is essential, time at home is often the first time that many kids have not had their entire day scheduled to the minute, from morning to night. Encourage your child to use this time to explore new activities and uncover new interests.
One of the very best gifts you can give your child is open time in which to play. Self-directed play is essential for building a strong and independent foundation in a child. Despite its importance, most children don’t get enough of it. The ability to organize and occupy one’s own time is best learned outside of the structured environments where children spend most of their time.
Helping Your Child With Unstructured Time
Despite its benefits and importance, not all children have the skills to flourish during opportunities for unstructured time. Sometimes, our children need guidance to embrace these times fully.
7 Tips to Make Unstructured Time Successful
- Create a schedule using a picture chart or a written schedule.
- Prepare individual bags of crunchy, sour, or tart snacks such as thick pretzel rods, popcorn, nuts, and gum. Add in a drink that requires sucking, such as water, with a sports bottle cap. There are more ideas to help kids regulate via their mouth in Miriam Manela Frankel’s book, The Parent-Child Dance. The suck-swallow breathe routine that eating these items makes us do, helps calm/regulate a person
- If you have a group of kids, have an older teenager with lots of energy structure an activity during adult downtime such as during long meals and prayers.
- Incorporate blowing into your day, such as blowing balloons or bubbles – breathing helps us all regulate.
- Explain to the kids in advance what it will be like and problem-solve times that may be “downtime.”
- Keep to bedtimes as best as possible.
- Make sure your child eats protein during the day. Protein helps kids maintain their blood sugar which regulates mood and energy. It’s also essential for brain development.
Online Parenting Guidance for Struggling Parents
We have news for you: every parent struggles with their child at different stages and in different ways. Some parents struggle more than others, and that is okay. Some children face challenges requiring outside intervention–this is all okay.
At BLOOM, we meet struggling parents and children right where they are. Our resources support you at your point of need. Whether you need simple ideas to fill unstructured time, you are struggling with toddler temper tantrums, or you don’t know how to communicate with your teenager–BLOOM can help.