Jobs, cooking, laundry, groceries, errands, house maintenance, gardening…life gets busy. And notice that list doesn’t include ANYTHING about the kids?!

Add in school or daycare drop off and pick up, after school activities, evening activities, weekend activities, sports, art, music, playdates…I often hear parents say they’re like a taxi service, shuttling kids between appointments. Not to mention time needed for homework.

But when is the DOWNTIME? Your kids need downtime, and SO DO YOU. If you are scheduled to within an inch of your life you have no time to rest, no time to recharge, no time to do… NOTHING.

When you’re running between activities, changing uniforms or costumes in the car, grabbing dinner in the drive-thru… or even if you’ve managed to make something at home, throwing it into the backseat to be inhaled between stops…

Like I said, kids need downtime. They need free time to let their imaginations play. They need playdates. They need time to get bored. Or, as my little lady says, “kids need body time.” When I asked her what that meant to her, she said it means they need time to let their bodies rest, to just be free, to relax. She was on FaceTime with her best friend whose family was travelling the world a few months ago, and her friend asked her if she would do hockey with her in the fall. We hadn’t discussed anything about activities, but our little lady “I don’t think so, I already have a lot of stuff going on with Brownies, taekwondo…I need some free time.” I tell you, the kid is wise beyond her years. (And with what I’ve heard about 4am ice times and crazy hockey schedules, I am quite frankly thrilled to pieces she turned it down!)

Your kids may be begging you to be able to take on one more sport or class because all their friends are doing it, or because they love it that much, but take a moment to look at the schedule and see how it will all fit into your life. While they’re still young and before the sports get into crazy competition, can you negotiate with your 6yo that they do one sport in spring and the other in winter? Can they choose between activities? Do what you can, but leave yourself and your kids some TIME. Try and leave a day where there’s nothing after school, or an evening or two a week where there is nothing on the calendar. Can you figure it out so only Saturday or Sunday have activities and not BOTH?

We’re “lucky” in that the little man NEEDS his downtime. He needs to play on his own, to get lost in his world of imagination with Lego or trains. He knows that’s his recharge time, and having too many things in a day REALLY stresses him out. He’s also not particularly athletically inclined, so we’re not facing requests for multiple sports team sign-ups. But because of that we also have to manage the little lady’s schedule to accommodate that need. We’ve sort of been forced into this calendar management and ensuring the kids have non-scheduled time, but ultimately it’s been the best thing for us. We ALREADY don’t feel like we see each other enough, I can’t imagine how it would be if we added in three or four more things in a week!

With all the amazing opportunities out there for kids it is so easy to sign up for everything and get into it before you realize you’re exhausted and have no time for you. And your kids are starting to whine because all they want is to be home for a bit. It’s not a badge of honour to be whisking your kids from one thing to the next with no break. You don’t get extra parent points for cramming more into your day. It’s okay to say no, to do nothing. It might be a scary prospect, but IT’S OKAY.

Here is the video the little lady and I did for my Facebook page, chatting about her belief that kids need free time: