Back to School, Back to Routine

As a magical summer winds to a close, I cannot help but get excited for the new school year. After two decades in the classroom as a student and another two decades as a teacher, my calendar begins at the end of August. In our house, a return to the routine of the school year revolves around the one immutable piece of the schedule: bed time. Summer sunlight, travel, spontaneous family movie nights, and more all wreak minor havoc on sleep. With the added complication of juggling different sleep needs for our four, ten, and thirteen year-olds, our evenings can be, in a word, interesting. Like Madeline Levine described in her recent blog, sleep is one of the most critical factors in maintaining health and happiness. In addition to the studies she cited linking good sleep habits as a protective factor against depression and extreme crabbiness, sleep helps the brain consolidate memories and learning, allows the body to process carbohydrates correctly (preventing excessive weight gain), b …

Back to School Alert: The Necessity of a Sane Bedtime

As a culture, we’ve somehow gotten to a place where a good night’s sleep is typically seen as a luxury. Sleep deprivation is de rigueur for many adults all year long. And as summer fades away and a new school year looms on the horizon, it’s about to be even more true for our kids. It’s not hard to see why sleep has fallen to the bottom of the priority list for many families. Our lifestyles are crowding it out. Our kids often have not just one but several extracurricular activities, each of which requires a significant time commitment. And let’s not forget homework: most kids have plenty of it to fit in between soccer practice or music lessons or karate class. By the time we’ve picked up the kids from whatever practice they’re at, shoveled in dinner and gotten them started on homework, it’s already late. By the time they’re done with assignments and study time it’s alarmingly late—but what are you going to do? The thinking goes like this: we live in a super-competitive world w …

The Art and Practice of Play

4 year-old: So, what do you want to do? 10 year-old: I don’t know. 4 year-old: Well, you could be my dog. 10 year-old: Ok. 4 year-old: But this time, you have to behave. If you live with a preschooler, play is probably the default activity in your home. Make believe, construction, water play and more are staples in our house, even for our thirteen and ten year-olds. Variations of the conversation above, one I overheard a few months ago, occur on a daily basis and the infectious enthusiasm of our youngest is nearly impossible to resist. Assorted scholars define play differently. I am comfortable with this simple definition of play: play is any freely chosen and self-directed activity. Soccer practice, while hopefully fun, is not play. A neighborhood whiffle ball tournament with group-decided bases and imaginary all-star players is play. While we live in an era in which play and free time have been marginalized, I am thrilled to see the increasing attention paid to th …

Why it Pays to Play

If you’re like many parents, your child’s summer may already be booked up with “enriching activities.” Maybe you’re shipping her off to a rigorous math or computer camp designed to give her an academic edge. At the very least you’re using the break from school to double up on her (already daunting) schedule of gymnastics and dance classes, supplemented with an ambitious summer reading list. I have a question though: When will your child have time to play? Just…play? It’s too bad that the old-fashioned notion of summer as endless free time—to climb trees, chase fireflies, build a fort in the woods, maybe set up a lemonade stand—has fallen by the wayside. This is what kids need—they need it far more than they need a high-priced summer camp or some other program aimed at cramming a little bit more learning into their exhausted brains. Play is serious business. We may see it as wasted time, but it’s actuall …

“The BLOG about Sports”

Another close friend of ours, and one of our founders, is Jim Lobdell. Jim sent us the following, and we certainly do THANK YOU for it, Jim! You present some very useful thoughts. Cheers, Emerson Sports Blog I love sports. Throughout my childhood, I played pick-up games of virtually every ball sport, and then swam and played water polo in high school. In college, I played on two NCAA championship water polo teams, and into adulthood and middle age I’ve competed in basketball tournaments, triathlons, running events, and open water swims. I know playing sports offers kids an undeniable wealth of benefits, from fitness and fun to life lessons about teamwork, perseverance, and effort. But navigating youth sports today is tricky. With youth sports organizations now offering leagues for 4- and 5-year-olds, travel teams for 9-year-olds, and options for year-round involvement, some families find sports to be “too much of a good thing” and struggle to find a balan …