Down With Downtime

November 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Child Development

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With today’s busy mind-set, many parents are finding themselves over-whelmed with chores, errands, jobs and children.

Families have too much to do, too many demands and way too much stimuli over-loading their senses.

It can be so overwhelming, it’s nice to take a moment or two to do nothing. And while you’re at it, give your baby or toddler a little down time, too.

Although studies say stimulation is critical to the development of infants and toddlers, fact is, research also shows it is just as beneficial for babies to do nothing at all.

“Overstimulated children tend to become anxious children,” said Dr. Vicki Panaccione, child psychologist in Melbourne. “That’s because there is so much coming at them and their little nervous systems can only handle so much.”

These anxious children may be afraid to venture out into the world because they see it as a scary place that bombards them with stimuli.

“And I want to stress to parents that these issues can directly impact their children’s development as they get older,” Panaccione said.

As simple as it sounds, giving a baby or toddler down time can be a tough achievement. A parent’s desire to boost intellectual growth is fueled by an industry of baby-friendly learning tools: books, puzzles, specialized toys, CDs and videotapes.

“There is so much out there, and everyone wants to give his or her child the best advantage they can,” Panaccione said. “Those things are good within reason, but it should be in proportions to allowing kids time to explore on their own.”

In short, many experts agree babies need quiet time to rest their bodies and minds. They also note it’s when babies aren’t engaged in structured activities that real learning, such as use of imagination and creativity, begins.

Sidebar: Help babies downshift

Local experts agree that babies and toddlers need stimulation, but they also need solitude and unstructured activities. Here are tips to help babies downshift:

• Take the cue. When babies experience stimulation overload, they cry, become fussy, get rigid, shut down or squirm.
• Understand a quiet baby isn’t necessarily a bored baby. Many babies are content to be by themselves in a playpen, swing or crib, as long as they know you are nearby. However, never leave a baby or toddler unattended.
• Basic items around the house, such as an empty box, can provide a chance for quiet play and encourage creativity.
• Downtime doesn’t have to involve a nap, but should provide an opportunity for relaxation and solitude.
• Be patient. For example, don’t rush in as soon as the baby awakens. This extra quiet time may encourage him to play with a nearby toy or discover his feet and fingers.
• Turn off loud noise and other distractions, such as lights.

As published in Florida Today.
Florida Today

© MMVI Vicki Panaccione, Ph.D.

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