Many parents believe that kids should never be bored (boredom simply leads to trouble!); the result is that children can find themselves bogged down by the inverse: an overloaded schedule with every minute of the day planned out for them. However, this is not ideal because free time can also lead to innovation, be an opportunity to decompress, or be a chance to socialize. As your child grows older, they will begin to desire independence and to have a say in their schedule, which is natural given their development. My suggestion for parents is to be supportive of their child’s desire to explore their own interests, while helping guide them in the process.
So how can free time be spent in a meaningful way? Here are 6 different ways middle school students can spend their free time wisely:
- Socialize – Between classes, it is common to see students in groups chatting to each other and catching up. However, be it the switch to online learning or stringent social distancing requirements, this is something students do not get to partake in as much as they used to. Having time to interact with peers their age is incredibly important for middle school students as it teaches them social dynamics, helps them discover who they are, and gives them people to relate to. It can be helpful for some parents to set some rules about socializing, such as a curfew, pocket money/allowances, and what kind of transport will or will not be provided.
- Take Up a Hobby – To get into an elite university, students must present a superb portfolio of extracurriculars to admissions officers in their applications. Why not get started on this early in a fun, age-appropriate way? While students’ lives may be primarily taken up by school, having them recognize a passion of their own at this age is incredibly beneficial and something we work on intensively at Crimson Rise with each student. Whether it is learning how to bake, taking up journaling, joining the chess club, playing a part in community theater, or writing a blog about their favorite topic, having your student explore a topic of interest aids in developing independence and goal setting, and gives them a chance to see where their skills lie beyond the classroom. A hobby can also develop into a deep passion and give them an idea about what kind of work they would like to do or topics they may want to study in university.
- Reading – Although I’ve blogged separately about reading, I cannot stress its importance enough for students. While “learning how to read” may have been the primary objective of earlier school years, building upon their reading comprehension and vocabulary skills is something all students should continue to do. At Crimson Rise we encourage each student to read a book of their choosing that is not tied to school expectations each month, as well as learn five new vocabulary words. Often middle school students feel pressure or disinterested by books covered in school curricula so we suggest parents approach reading as something more casual, such as the novel adaptation of the latest superhero flick or reading the newspaper. As a Rise Strategist, I encourage parents to be supportive of any and all kinds of reading, even if the student’s book of choice is not a classic; there are still lessons and vocabulary to pick up on. Check out our blog post “Reading: Key to Success” for more info.
- Family Time – While middle school students may be eager for more independence, especially as they approach puberty and become teenagers, providing them with quality family time remains priceless. Be it taking part in their interests such as fixing your son’s skateboard or taking your daughter shopping for a new outfit and getting some coffee afterwards, children still benefit greatly from spending time with their parents. The key to making this idea work is to keep an open mind that your child is radically changing at this age and as such, it is natural for them to take up different interests than they had in elementary school. Keep an open mind and suggest activities you think they may enjoy, as well as open the floor for them to tell you what they would like to do together. Also consider activities as a family, be it a movie night, a picnic trip, or even a vacation!
- Get Some Exercise – Between the decrease of physical education time in school curriculum, the sedentary nature of computer-based learning, and devoting more time to studying as students get older, children are on average are more sedentary than they used to be. Lack of movement in these years could aid in developing bad habits and health problems earlier as they age, so try to encourage your child to take up a sport. If they are not into team sports offered at their school or community, perhaps individual activities such as yoga, hiking, biking, or running would suit better. Alternatively, exploring movement through dance linked to the music they like (ie. K-Pop) could also be a solution. If your environment and household budget allows, seasonal activities such as skiing, surfing, etc. may also be considered. Whichever physical activity your child does, ensure it is something they enjoy so it becomes a healthy outlet rather than another thing to cross off their growing to-do list.
- Volunteer – Giving back to the community at this age exposes your child to the concept of “community service” before it becomes more common in high school. As many places require parental consent or guidance for it at this age, try to explore community service activities together. A few suggestions are to have your student babysit younger cousins, mowing the lawn of a neighbour, helping at a pet shelter, reading to elderly community members, putting in some hours at the local library, or taking part in school-organized events related to charity. Volunteering teaches middle schoolers the importance of community, how to be an active and respectful citizen in society, and shows that giving back to the world is how we can make it a better place.
The next time your middle school son or daughter is bored, try one of these activities and see how they do. It may turn into a meaningful hobby or evolve into a lovely family tradition, but even if it does not, it is still time better spent for your child’s development than another couple of hours lost to scrolling down social media. Have an open mind and try something new today!
Your friendly neighbourhood Rise blogger,
Learn more about Crimson Rise’s strategic mentorship, academic support, and extracurricular coaching for young students, and request a free consultation on your child’s journey!