If you are using your brains or your brawn, you are being “productive.” The rule around here is that everyone needs to be productive most of every day. Productive activities include the obvious like playing sports, doing homework, practicing music, doing chores, going to work, walking the dog, mowing the lawn, taking a bike ride, doing crafts, making a picnic lunch, raking. It also includes less obvious activities such as reading, playing outside with friends, jumping on the trampoline, creating a special snack, making a cushion fort, shooting hoops on the driveway, sorting baseball cards, playing solitaire, building a “creation” from wood scraps, and playing Legos/marbles/board games. Being productive is a choice. Choosing to do something productive often requires a little more effort, but the payoff is worth the effort. You have to come up with an idea, you may have to gather materials, call a friend, change into your work clothes, drive somewhere, etc. There is usually some setup required by the child and often by the parent to get started. By not choosing to do something productive, you are effectively grabbing the easiest thing around which is frequently the couch in front of the TV/video game, or the computer; that’s why so many people (children and adults alike) make that non-choice. However, the easy activities are usually the ones with little long-term value. Growth occurs when the brain and the muscles are working together.
Opportunities for productive activities come easily when you have school, sports, work, and volunteering in your family life. There is always something to do or someone to help. We started early with our boys and always encouraged “doing” over “watching.” No one gets to “hang out” all day. No one gets to sleep in till noon. There is too much fun to be had! Plenty of parents make excuses for their children that feed the psyche that being active is hard work. They excuse their children from the days’ activities and let them rest. Being active is a habit. Encourage your children to be active by providing lots of activity – commonsense, right?
Maybe this sounds too busy for you and your family. Maybe it sounds like you would have to act like a cruise director providing personalized activities for every member of the family. It’s not that hard. Once the standard is set, once the habit is in place, it becomes easy. The kids feel restless if they sit too long, they get themselves outside to play. If we have an open day with no scheduled activities, the oldest son will plan a hike for the family or another will help load all the bikes on the van and the kids will head out mountain biking. Our second son makes desserts when he has free time. The little one plays roller hockey on the driveway. Your goal is to make it more natural that your children choose something productive over something easy.
Keep the end goal in mind; we all want to raise children who will be hard-working, productive, and useful adults. Best to start when they are young!