Reclaiming leisure time Reclaiming leisure time

Inactivity is an important aspect in a person’s life at any age. Starting from a young age, it is worth taking the time to stop and enjoy yourself.

Advisors: Sonia Ruth Quintero Arrubla, psychologist, master’s degree in Education
Sandra Juliet Clavijo Zapata, bachelor’s degree in Special Education, master’s degree in Child Development

Stop. Delight in life. Connect with yourself and with others. These are three things that bring us closer to a different concept of leisure, far away from “wasting time” and “not doing anything.” Even when you think you are not doing anything, you are doing something, and this can sound illogical for many, but it is the truth. From organizing your internal world, to clearing your mind and recharging with new energies, all of this happens in times of leisure, understood as a time set aside for enjoyment.

Leisure is a determining factor in the life of any person, especially at a time when we are so active, because I am giving feedback to the spirit to be able to continue. Leisure time encourages creativity. During this time, all of us fix the world and then put these elements into practice,” says Sonia Ruth Quintero Arrubla, psychologist and research professor of Child Education at the Luis Amigó Catholic University.

Parents are very busy with their jobs and their own activities related to personal and professional goals, and children have planned schedules that include school, homework, and extracurricular activities. We have become a society with the understanding that being productive is the key to success. So, what happened to leisure?

“A child whose schedule is very strictly planned does not have space for leisure or even free time, because it is all planned. Thus, we are losing the opportunity to see what kind of person is being raised. And this is happening at home and at school,” states Quintero Arrubla.

Starting in childhood, leisure needs to be established as a fundamental part of life. Sandra Juliet Clavijo Zapata, director of the Child Education department in the Luis Amigó Catholic University, explains that parents’ perception that leisure is a waste of time makes them feel pressured. “If you ask them what their child does after school, they are embarrassed to respond that he plays at home. They feel better filling the time with multiple activities because that is a synonym for future success. The child is not allowed to have a space for personal growth, which can result from spending time alone or spending time with another person on activities that he enjoys and that allow him to discover how the world works and also interpret it, which is not easy, especially when one is young.”

Development of values

Leisure can be individual or collective. For children, alone time is a determining factor because they need time to organize their psychic and emotional life. “When a child is alone, he can use his imagination. Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim says that when a child is using his imagination, he has the possibility to solve emotional problems and increase his capacity to reorganize his interior world. When we give a child the possibility to have leisure for periods of time – not all the time – this will pay back in the formation of a good human being for the world,” states professor Sonia Ruth Quintero Arrubla.

How much time during the day should be dedicated to leisure? This depends on family, school, and personal dynamics. However, Sandra Juliet Clavijo Zapata insists that the family should stop being scared of this and give themselves leisure time together. “And from this example of the parent taking time for himself and spending time with one another, the child learns. This is going to give the family the opportunity to identify their likes, what motivates them as a family, and if they do not know yet, leisure time will allow them to discover it.”

The call to reclaim leisure time is also for educators, states Sandra Juliet Clavijo Zapata. “The rush to comply with achievement indicators and other more academic advances has caused the reason for leisure to be lost.” She explains that often the teacher that provides the child with this space for games and leisure is told that she is not doing anything or “she is branded as the teacher that lets them play ‘in the meantime,’ because they look at her under a lens of productivity.”

Quintero Arrubla believes that leisure is important for encouraging autonomy, because for example, sometimes it is thought that children are not able to play a game, “so you have to do everything for them. We say that we are raising autonomous human beings, but for them to be autonomous, we need to give them this space to see what they want to do and what they are able to do.” In individual leisure time, the child can develop perseverance, personal care, and responsibility. In collective leisure time, the child can foster friendship, solidarity, respect, and all the values that arise from human interaction. 

Two tips for encouraging leisure

  1.  From riding a bicycle or trying a new recipe to watching a movie. Building something with Legos or looking through the window. There is no “correct” activity for leisure time. When you understand this, you stop labeling and judging.
  2.  In an age where technological devices take up many children and adults’ time, it is important to pay attention to the interaction processes with others and with the real world. Strengthening ties with family and friends is crucial.

When your child gets home from school it is good to give him a moment to use their imagination and enjoy free play, which will help them channel their emotions.

Related: Forming good habits through sports