I recently posted on the NLP4Kids Facebook page about a very young person I had met aged 9 if I recall correctly, who attended an after school activity every night of the week, on a Saturday and a further 3 on Sundays. As ever, opinion on where this was good or bad divided opinion!
When I was a child, I didn’t attend groups like this at all. I was a member of brownies for a short amount of time but it didn’t work out too well for me (there is an article about the suggestions I gave to the Brown Owl about how I felt the group could be improved on www.peoplebuilding.co.uk. It’s by funny and worth a read.) If I’m honest I think Phillip Schoffield played an active parenting role for me from his broom cupboard on Children’s BBC. I used to get home from school and zone out watching the TV almost every evening.
So for me I can see a real value in after school activities. I recognise somewhat that my social skills could have benefitted if I had been part of groups and my overall learning could have been accelerated. I would maybe be more inclined in adulthood to be part of groups and activities instead of staying at home so much. I can also see too that this extra curricular learning call get a bit too much. Some children end up putting in as many hours work and effort as an adult in a full time job. They become exhausted, grouchy and then their behaviour kicks off.
Sometimes we forget that in order to help children grow physically and intellectually they have to rest. Downtime provides the opportunity to sort that which has been learned and observed.
Think about a sponge, it has the capacity to absorb only so much water. If that water were information and the sponge were a brain, the brain uses downtime to sort the information, wringing the sponge so that it is empty for the next morning after sleep, ready to begin absorbing again.
If you keep pouring water onto a sponge that is already full, it fails to soak it up. Instead it is overloaded and cannot take anymore. Sometimes that happens with children’s brains!
Of course each child is different. Some need very high levels of engagement and entertainment. They get bored with the stillness of rest. And guess what shows up when they get restless? Behaviours again! There’s no absolute answer for all here. (Though I’d love you to contribute on the page what has worked for your children and the children’s you know). A lot like adults children can get so busy doing life that they don’t notice the impact it’s having on them, their energy levels, their mood and their learning. Like adults, every now and again it’s worth doing a time audit and checking how they are feeling having spent their time doing what they do.
By Gemma Bailey
Gemma Bailey is the director of NLP4Kids, a children’s therapy service that provides teen therapy and child counselling using NLP, a proactive alternative to conventional child psychology. If you are looking for a child counsellor to help your child overcome stress, depression or anxiety related problems or if you wish to book a workshop to help your child improve their mental health call 0203 6677294 or email Gemma@NLP4Kids.org Gemma is based in Hertfordshire and works with clients in and around Hemel Hempstead, St Albans, Watford, Potters Bar, Berkhamsted, North London and Hertfordshire.