When you signed up for this job, you knew when it came time to teach them how to tie their shoes or why to eat their vegetables, you'd find strategies and experts to help you. But when figuring stuff out like how often they can borrow your tablet or if it's OK to have TV in their bedroom, finding tried and true advice is not so easy. But, have confidence! You can raise a balanced, durable human even in this busy digital world if you allow time in your child's day for these five priorities:
Even when your little boy or girl grows into a sovereign of social media, he or she will still need the centering force of Family. These days, family togetherness most easily happens around meals. Studies show that kids who regularly eat with their families have fewer behavior problems at school. They’re also more likely to maintain a healthy weight, according to a new report by the American Academy of Pediatrics. At the table, kids learn life lessons and good manners. You can also watch their faces for subtle clues of trouble or worry that you might miss if you never sat down. That's why, along with the forks and spoons, set out a gadget basket—just out of reach of the table. Before meals, family members can pop their mobiles in the basket so they can concentrate on each other instead of their devices.
It’s obvious that toddlers love to slide, swing, and run around. But all the time they're growing up, kids still need the joy of play and the soul-replenishing properties of nature. We human animals are at home in the breeze and sunshine, where we feel calmer and more in control. While playing outside, kids build strong muscles, a healthy metabolism, a healthy store of vitamin D, and maintain good eyesight. They also gain durable skills they can’t learn in the classroom, such as sense of direction, balance, and physical coordination. When kids can play together and make up their own games, they learn the kind of cooperation they'll need to be entrepreneurs in the future. That's why kids should spend at least a full hour playing outside each day.
Even before kids are old enough to have homework, they can contribute to a well-functioning household—whether by helping clear the table or tidying their rooms. Chores teach kids how to apportion their time, to focus and finish a task, and the satisfaction of a job well done. When school and homework arrives, you’ll need to teach them how to manage distractions and to turn notifications and devices off when not needed to complete assignments. To avoid headaches and eyestrain when using screens, kids should look away every twenty minutes for twenty seconds at something at least twenty feet away. To keep their metabolism humming, for each hour they work, they should stop and do a minute of jumping jacks or other whole-body exercise.
Beginning early in life, a child is affected by the hustle and bustle of the household and may absorb the stress felt by older family members. That’s why all kids need a place to themselves to relax and recover. When they start school and have almost continuous input and stimulation, kids especially need mental and physical space at the end of the day to collect their thoughts, regain control of their own emotions, and mull over the affairs of the day—most likely in their own bedrooms. Make sure their sanctuary is quiet, comfortable, and free of devices that can rob them of their vital time for introspection, mindfulness, and mental digestion.
Solid sleep restores both body and mind by naturally cleansing the brain of harmful toxins, repairing cells, and realigning body processes. All through life, we need solid sleep not only to recharge, but also to allow what we learn during the day to transfer into long-term memory. This explains why students who have uninterrupted sufficient sleep are better at remembering facts they learn today for the test tomorrow. For that reason, the bedroom should be free of devices that go beep in the night. Kids should charge phones, tablets, laptops, and other personal devices well out of reach and earshot, such as in the kitchen or hallway. An alarm clock can wake them up in the morning.
By sitting down with your child, talking through these priorities, and planning how they'll spend their precious time, you'll help them build the durable habits that will serve them for a lifetime.
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