Have some fun this summer!  Our FB posts this week feature fun activities for kids.  Turn the car trip into a time to play games, or pull out some board games.  As research has proven, play is important for kids.  Our blog post earlier this summer discussed the need for balance…some structure, some attention to any academic issues, but some downtime too—and not too much time on the computer.

A recent article by Emma Seppälä, Science Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, brought this notion of the need for play and fun even more into focus.  Seppälä wrote the book The Happiness Track and recently authored an article published by Quartz that included many insights for parents.  Her concern is that too much stress on kids at a young age leads to burnout much too early.

Kids Feel Stress

It is no secret that many kids are under a lot of stress.  From busy school and activity schedules to social pressure and high parental expectations, kids have a lot going on.  Some of them juggle it all quite successfully, while others feel the stress to a much greater degree.  Sadly, some kids, even at a young age, feel their worth is judged by their accomplishments.  Seppälä’s research suggests that too much stress becomes an inhibitor to kids’ ability to think, learn and be creative.

Suggestions to Turn Down the Stress Level

Among other suggestions, Seppälä includes these alternatives to advice parents usually share with their children:

  • What we tell our kids: Focus on the future. Keep your eyes on the prize. 
  • What we should be telling them: Live (or work) in the moment.
  • What we tell our kids: Stress is inevitable—keep pushing yourself.
  • What we should be telling them instead: Learn to chill out.
  • What we tell our kids: Stay busy.
  • What we should be telling them: Have fun doing nothing.
  • What we tell our kids: Play to your strengths.
  • What we should be telling them: Make mistakes and learn to fail.
  • What we tell our kids: It’s a dog-eat-dog world—so look out for number one.
  • What we should be telling them: Show compassion to others.


Seppälä’s premise is that while putting pressure on kids may produce short term results, in the long run, kids become burned out and are actually less successful.  In particular, her third point above speaks to summertime:  instead of pushing to fill every moment of every day with activities, let your kids have some summer fun doing nothing.