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Are your children over timetabled?

Every parent wants to do what’s best for their children and give them access to opportunities that they enjoy and benefit from. But a new study suggests that the average child is being ‘over timetabled’ leaving them with little time to relax, play, and explore their imagination, all activities that can not only improve mental wellbeing but have a positive impact on development too.

According to a study, the average child spends 30 hours and 50 minutes at school every week. Over the course of a week children typically spend almost 8 hours at clubs and doing homework, 5 hours and 49 minutes actively reading with a parent, and over an hour and a half doing chores like washing the pots. In total children spend 46 hours and 7 minutes ‘working’ – more than the average working week for many of their parents.

While many parents plan after school activities to help children stay fit, socialise, and gain extra skills, the findings suggest that some ambitious timetables could be putting too much pressure on children. Following the research, child psychologist Dr Sam Wass recommended that children have 3 hours during a week day and 6 hours on the weekend that was considered ‘free time’. She explained that down time isn’t just important to adults but children too and can in fact be a time when a lot of learning occurs, stimulating creativity and independence.

Of course, there’s still a place for structured activities in the family schedule but creating a balance could benefit children of all ages. Every child is different and while some will prefer lots of free time others thrive on structure, understanding what approach best suits your child will help you strike the right balance with them in mind.

Among the benefits of free time for children are:

  • Exploring their imagination – Imaginative play has been linked to emotional development, social skills, and is a way that many children learn to identify and understand the world around them.
  • Find their interests – If your child is often in structured activities it leaves little time for discover new interests that could become lifelong passions.
  • Promote self-sufficiency – Being stimulated all the time means children can begin to lack the ability to entertain themselves. Having free time can help promote independence, problem solving, and creativity that can be useful both now and in the future.
  • It’s fun – Free time to do what they love is simply fun for children too, giving them a chance unwind and relax.
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