Tip of the Week

A typical school night can get pretty hectic. Once the kids get home, there’s a scramble to get to after-school activities, then dinner and finally, homework.

For families that are feeling the schedule squeeze this school year, here’s some news that might make you feel good about cutting an activity or two from the lineup. Kids not only crave free time, they need it. And new research by GoGo squeeZ, the makers of all-natural, 100-percent fruit in a pouch, suggests they’re not getting enough.

The importance of unstructured time

Seventy-two percent of parents feel that their kids have less free and unstructured time when compared to their own childhoods.

“What people often don’t realize is play has a purpose,” says Dr. Robert Murray, pediatrician, author and child health expert, “and parents aren’t always aware of its full benefits.”

Why are kids getting so little free time? Part of the answer is parents’ good intentions. Eighty-five percent of parents believe sports and activities lead to greater success in life, according to the survey.

In reality, “It’s the social and emotional interactions that are the important benefit, not the sport itself,” says Murray. “The social and emotional skills that come from social interactions are an even greater predictor of later success than IQ.”

Kids need more time for quality, unstructured activities. That’s why GoGo squeeZ is championing an idea called BE Time, which is the quality “kid-time” needed to nourish the imagination, creativity, bodies and relationships of kids. To make time for BE Time, try some of these strategies from Murray to work in an extra 30 minutes of unstructured time per day.

Make errands interactive: Whether you’re driving, at an appointment or grocery shopping, it’s easy to placate restless children with devices for a moment’s peace. It’s well worth the extra effort to turn these moments into shared experiences. For example, at the grocery store, “read labels together with young children and ask them to find interesting fruits or vegetables to feel and smell,” Murray says. “Ask older children to help plan dinner and to compare the cost of certain items as a way to learn basic life skills.”

Give kids tools to make and invent: Inspire some free-time creativity, where they can let their imaginations go wild. Keeping supplies and toys that inspire creative play will give them plenty to facilitate free-time creativity. Keep costumes and props, toys and art supplies at the ready and watch their imaginations go wild.

Plan family outings: Look for places that let kids freely explore and make their own choices on how to play, including parks, swimming pools, nature centers, zoos and museums. While there, follow their lead instead of rushing them along to the next thing. If a hands-on exhibit catches their attention, give them the freedom to explore.

Put the kids in charge: Give kids time to be in charge of their own activities, so they have a chance to de-stress, regain their mental balance and encode memories of the things they learned in school on their own. “If you feel the need to provide structure and safety, identify an opportunity that makes everyone feel comfortable,” Murray says. “Watch your kids ride their bikes or take them to the playground, a museum, a farm, and let them decide how to explore it.”

Set an example: Show kids that it’s important for parents to have unstructured time too! By reading a book, catching up with friends or spending time outside, kids will follow your lead. “The idea of ‘BE Time’ is a great conversation starter for parents and grandparents,” Murray says, as “it encourages them to rethink the importance of slowed-down, more unplanned free time in a child’s life.”

— Brandpoint

Family Movie Night

“Solo: A Star Wars Story”

Rated: PG-13

Length: 2 hr 15 min

Synopsis: Out on DVD now is the story of Young Han Solo, who finds adventure when he joins a gang of galactic smugglers, including a 196-year-old Wookie named Chewbacca. Indebted to the gangster Dryden Vos, the crew devises a daring plan to travel to the mining planet Kessel to steal a batch of valuable coaxium. In need of a fast ship, Solo meets Lando Calrissian, the suave owner of the perfect vessel for the dangerous mission — the Millennium Falcon.

Book Report

“Dreamers”

Ages: 4 - 8 years

Pages: 40 pages

Synopsis: Caldecott Honor artist and five-time Pura Belpré Award winner Yuyi Morales tells her own immigration story in this picture-book tribute to the transformative power of hope … and reading.

— Neal Porter Books

Did You Know

Many classrooms have pets such as hamsters, fish or frogs. While caring for those animals can be a great learning experience for kids, exposure to animals does have some risk, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

And young children are more likely to get sick after handling an animal.

The CDC suggests these ways to reduce your child’s chances of getting ill:

Always wash hands with water and soap right after touching animals, their food or their habitats.

Disinfect areas where animals have been.

Supervise handwashing for young children.

Use hand sanitizer if running water and soap are not available.

Tanks, feeders, water containers and other equipment should not be cleaned in sinks where food is prepared, served or eaten.

— More Content Now