Greetings from the School Nurse:  Lori Elder, RN  BSN

Anxiety is now the number one mental health-related diagnosis in children; childhood depression is also increasing.  Experts report a strong link between anxiety/depression and the lack of adequate free play/down time.  If you observe signs of stress in your child (crankiness, fatigue, sadness, sleep problems, worry, troubled friendships) he/she may be overscheduled.  Aside from conferring with your child’s pediatrician, provide unstructured free time and remember to join in at times.  See what happens: it may be one of the best investments you make in their healthy future.

Parents believe they must enroll their children in multiple enrichment activities to help them excel.  Many children go to school, then to after-school homework clubs or tutoring sessions, home to the computer/video games, and may lack enough active “down time”.  Or, students go directly from school to organized sports practices, home to a rushed meal, homework, and bed-again with little unstructured time.  Some families never spend relaxed, unstructured time together.

Research shows that play—unstructured, creative active fun:

  • Facilitates healthy child development
  • Builds physical health and strength
  • Maintains good mental/emotional health
  • Develops healthy social relationships
  • Nurtures positive family relationships
  • Increases learning and academic performance

Certainly enrichment activities have their place, but are not substitutes for play time.  Our brains process, organize, and continue to learn during “downtime”– it is as essential to learning and development as active learning itself! The ability to self-soothe is an essential life skill.