I am mummy only to one child so I was a bit of a novice, to say the least, when she came along. I still am largely, making it up as I go along. But I'm getting a bit more confident in how I'm parenting, feeling pretty safe that I'm not going to stuff up too badly and irreparably damage my little precious in the process.
But I remember back in the day, when I thought that every minute of every day had to count. That my daughter couldn't have a half hour in which she did nothing. She would be bored and I would be rubbish because I wasn't jam-packing my daughter's day with developmental opportunities.
How daft was I? Sometimes your child needs down time to reflect on what they have done. And sometimes they need some time being a little bit bored so that they can think for themselves what it is they want to do next. Over-stimulating can lead to children not taking any kind of responsibility for their own entertainment - or indeed learning once they reach school age, as teachers are forced to come up with ever more ridiculous ways to 'engage' their classes.
I remember when I was little I wasn't taken to this group and that group, then forced to 'craft' every afternoon. Ha! The very thought! So I would draw, I would read, I would make little paper dolls, giving them all a different name, a different back story and a different wardrobe (a vast extensive wardrobe). I created my own entertainment and I was truly never bored.
That's not to say that you should leave your child to it all day every day, of course not! But planning every moment of each day - well there really is no need for it in my humble opinion. Don't put pressure on yourself and don't underestimate your child. If allowed a little breathing space your child's imagination can flourish as can their skills at solitary pursuits.
Of course I may very well be preaching to the converted here, but I felt like I had to make every moment count and control every part of my child's day. Letting go of that has been quite a revelation and my daughter I think is really feeling the benefits. I've never been one for too much structure as I find it restricting - certainly never went in for a Gina Ford style of parenting. But whatever your approach, I think many of us can ease back a bit. Not that I'm setting myself up as a parenting expert. Again, ha! The very thought! We all have our own ways and if I ever do judge another parent's methods then I mentally admonish myself afterwards! :) And of course there are those with special emotional, educational or developmental needs who really do require regimented structure to their day.
So what do you think? Do you let things flow or do you appreciate the structure of days full of planned activities? Have you taken different approaches with different children? Or do you find that some children need more structure than others - particularly those on the autistic spectrum, but perhaps even children that have no particular medical/psychological reason? If so, how do you approach this?