The Value of Free Time

grass rollingFor the first time in my parenting life, my toddler has absolutely no activities to attend, classes to take or socializing to do. This tiny tot has a completely blank schedule, with free time galore. And I’m loving every second of his lack of activities.

When my first baby was born, we filled our days with library storytimes, play dates, zoo trips, swim lessons, art classes, mommy and me symphony, breastfeeding support groups, you name it and we did it. We were BUSY–a set schedule as rigid as could be because they had to have stimulation, socialization and friends. Truth be told, I needed these as much if not more than my kids did. I needed the mommy and me comraderie, the momma tribe of like minded friends who were as sleep deprived, milk stained and hopped up on nursing hormones as I was. I needed to hang out with others who understood if I lost it over a spilt sippy cup or a leaking boob. It was a special and precious time, I made some incredible friends and memories, exploring the world through my baby’s eyes.

Somewhere between baby two and three, my perspective changed on toddler and baby activities. Instead of searching out more things to do (I had plenty already!) I chose to simplify, to reduce our activities and busyness and give this baby the gift of time. Time to be himself, time to play at home, time to just be with mom. He enjoys playing on his own, exploring our back yard and spending endless hours in the parks near our home. We do art at home, we play playdoh, color, build with legos and read. We eat, cook, bake and garden. He enjoys sitting in the sun and watching the birds, and just hanging out. The biggest benefit I see in this free, unstructured gift of time is the abilitiy to self regulate how much he wishes to participate. Studies find that children who participate in more structured activities tend to self regulate less than kids who are left to their own devices. I see now how structured his life will be as he enters preschool and elementary, and if this small gift of freedom is an easy offering I can give him to enjoy these early years in easygoing bliss.

Someday, his days will be filled with busy, but for now, he is happy being free.

Pia Watzig is a stay at home mom to three little boys in Portland, OR.

Tags: activities, agenda, boredom, busy, free time, schedule, sports

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