Here's a question to ask yourself: Is a family that is constantly out and about, going here and there, attending music classes and swimming lessons, etc. better than one who stays home most evenings, and doesn't have their children in a bunch of different classes? Thought provoking, isn't it?

With the amount of choices that exist today, parents feel pressured to send their children to music class, dance class, swimming lessons, gymnastics, and maybe even a tutor. When they hear a friend talk about the activities that their children are involved in, they think..."Maybe I should be doing that".

My opinion is that leading a "slow life" is the BEST way to raise a child. What does this mean? It means having a routine, no matter if your children are babies, toddlers, or school-aged. It means participating in family activities inside the safest, most comforting place there is - the home. It means making a conscious choice about which activities to participate in rather than jumping on the bandwagon of classes.

The reasons for living a slow life are plentiful, however here are just a few:

1) Children who have time to play by themselves in a quiet environment are able to be creative, problem solve, and think about words they learned that day and things they saw and wondered about. They also become self-reliant and their self-esteem improves because they learn how to like spending time with themselves.

2) Children who spend quality "down time" with their families tend to have healthy self-esteems because they feel like they are a part of something important. They also feel good about themselves because they see that they are "liked" by their parents, not just "loved".

3) Children who have enough time to just play are able to develop naturally, meaning they remain their natural, appropriate age rather than having to grow up too fast while they learn how to cope with all that might exist in their busy schedule.

4) Most children who live slow lives tend to do better in school and feel better about going to school and learning. Homework typically isn't a battle either.

5) Children who live slow lives are typically more well-behaved and have respect for rules set by their parents.

Now that we know some of the benefits, what does a typical slow life look like? It depends on the age, so this week I will discuss toddlers and then move on to school-aged children next week.

Good Routine for Toddlers

7 AM if awake, feed milk then leave in bedroom to play, read, talk to him/herself. Just be sure that the room is completely childproofed.

After an hour of alone time (or slightly longer if they like) bring them to the main living area to play and either have on some children's music or good quality TV or a DVD while you prepare breakfast

9:00 AM Feed breakfast

9:30 AM more play time with music on and then to bed at 10 AM for 1st nap if under 18 months OR

9:30 AM take to a playgroup or swimming, run errands, go for a walk, go to a friend's house or do an art activity at home and later a short walk if over 18 months (or has given up morning nap)

Noon Feed Lunch

12:30 PM to bed for a 2- 2 1/2 hour nap (if 18 months or older) OR

12:30/1 PM take to a playgroup or swimming, run errands, go for a walk, go to the park, go to a friend's house or do an art activity together (if under 18 months and still having a morning and afternoon nap)

3 PM or 4 PM put down for nap #2 (if 18 months or younger) OR

3 PM read books together then give a snack and allow for individual play time

4 PM Choose an activity to do together. Ideas include:

- have a friend over
- do an art activity
- build a puzzle or play with blocks or lego together
- bake something together
- Give a bath while you read a book in the bathroom
- go for a walk with a list of things to see (use pictures if a young toddler)- how many things can you see on the list today?

5 PM Allow for individual play or time to watch TV or a DVD while you prepare dinner

6 PM Eat dinner together as a family (if child is finished and becoming restless they can be set to play quietly while mom and dad enjoy each other)

7 PM give a 15 minute bath (optional), dress in pj's, give milk, brush teeth, place in sleeping bag in dim light, then put to bed with a kiss, "I love you. Have a good sleep. I'll see you in the morning" and close the door until 7 am the next morning

Author's Bio: 

Erin Kurt, parenting & life coach to working mothers, and founder of ErinParenting, is also the author of Juggling Family Life and creator of The Life Balance Formula and the How to Get Your Child to Listen program.