I bet all of us can remember those long, carefree summer days when the sun was about to set and you could hear your mom calling you to come inside. It may have even been the first time you had been inside all day aside from a food or bathroom break.That is how it was for me, too, and I worry those days are passing our kids by.
We all talk about the fear of over scheduling our kids, but do we ever do anything about it? I swore I wouldn’t be “that parent” and have my kids in four activities at a time, but I can feel the pull already, and my kids are young.
Soccer, ballet, piano, swim and t-ball are all competing for your child’s attention. (Not to mention computer games, iPhone apps, TV shows and video games.) I wonder if kids would know what to do with a day free of all of these distractions. A day to just play and be young and create fun out of nothing. Could they do it? Would they do it? If we could just ignore the “Mom, I’m bored” cries and let them figure something out on their own, would they?
I saw this question answered firsthand with my daughter a few winters ago. It had snowed so much that our outdoor toy bin was completely covered. This wasn't the fluffy white stuff we all love, either. I am talking iced-over, rock hard snow that you can walk on without falling through.
My daughter suited up and walked outside to explore. I threw a few Tupperware pieces out the door and waited to see how long it would take for her to start whining about no toys. Once she realized that it was up to her to make her own fun, she did. She grabbed the Tupperware pieces and went to town.
I was shocked. She ended up staying outside for over an hour creating snow sculptures with Tupperware, and I have never forgotten that story.
My other “there is nothing to do” story came when we moved into our home last year. Two kids with no toys sequestered in one room so they wouldn’t get in the movers' way was asking a lot. They stood in that room looking like two sad puppies. They found paper and pens and my daughter started writing a story about the move in and my son drew the corresponding pictures.
Boxes of toys finally arrived, and the kids couldn’t care less. Oh, they eventually unloaded the boxes of toys in delight, but first they finished their moving story, kept out of the movers' way and helped me stay sane during our first day in our new home.
So as I was planning the kids' summer a few months ago (yes, I planned it that long ago) and had two weeks free of any planned activities, it was those stories of creative free play and several more like it that I counted on. I left those two weeks open and have yet to plan anything. The rest of the summer is filled with trips to the grandparents' houses and weeks of camp, but those two weeks will stay open, unplanned and unstructured.
“Free to do what?” my kids asked me. I told them they would be free to explore, create, design, write, act, dream and just relax. My son asked me if there was anything they couldn’t do and I said, yes, you can’t complain that there isn’t anything to do.