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Helping Kids (and Yourself) Balance Work, Play, and Rest

Summer days invite us to slow down and be more intentional about how we spend our time.

Couple with moving boxes

After the busyness of the school year, the kids in your life need downtime – breathing room to just be. Even if your child is enrolled in camps every week this summer, and your work schedule hasn’t changed, the stretch of summer days offers the potential for creating a more spacious rhythm that balances work, rest, and play. 


Create a summer fun list. Take a few minutes and create a Summer Bucket List with your kids – swim in the lake, go berry picking, watch fireworks, roast marshmallows, get creemees, etc. Put this list in a prominent place in your home. Make weekly plans based on what your kids want to do, and direct them to the list when they (or you!) need inspiration for a fun activity. Separately, make a list for yourself, and get excited about summer activities just for you.


Create space for unstructured time. Give your kids plenty of time this summer to do their own thing, by themselves. Unstructured playtime/downtime creates spaciousness. One of the best pieces of parenting advice I ever received was: "Stop interrupting your children when they are at play. Then, when they come to you, be completely present." I found that when my kids chose to come to me and I deliberately gave them my undivided attention for 10-15 minutes or so, they usually got what they needed and would naturally get back to their own activity.  


Let your time together be guided by your child’s natural rhythm. Parents often think they need to direct the schedule for their kids, and for young children this is often true. In my family, we would agree on one main activity for the day, and in the morning I would have everything prepped and ready to go. As the day unfolded, instead of insisting that we leave the house at a certain time, I would watch their cues.  Without fail, they would eventually finish what they were doing and be ready for the day’s activity.  Planning fewer activities and following my children’s own rhythm brought so much more ease into the flow of our day. 

Pay attention to when kids are acting out or are unusually moody. Often I find that when children feel overwhelmed by activities or over-scheduling, they let us know indirectly. Too much downtime can also lead to crankiness as well. Use their behaviors to pinpoint what is not working for them and then experiment with ways you can help them bring work, rest and play into balance. 


This summer, no matter how much is planned, intentionally craft a rhythm that allows for an in-breath of work and activity, and an out-breath of play and rest.


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