Social media tends to hype of the idea of summer. We see ads for giant water parks with children delightfully splashing at the park with their parents after spending almost $100 per person to get in. Then there are the summer camps that make life blissful for parents, but they can be pricey too! We have a ton of options to choose from: gymnastics, dance, baseball, VBS, swimming. And the mindset that is on my “irks me” list: we only have 12 summers before our child graduates from high school. We have to make them count!
All of these activities are good. They’re fun. Our kids enjoy them, and we enjoy some down time. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with wanting some down time. Parents need that. Summer can be overwhelming. It is good to do a few activities in the summer, but we can’t forget about boredom. It is the most forgotten activity of the summer because we tend to have the mindset of “hurry up. . . . we only have a few summers to get it all in!” It’s all rooted in FOMO (the fear of missing out). But I prefer to focus on the days rather than the years. As we all know, the days are long, but the years go by so fast. We have 2 1/2 months which amounts to 75 days to enjoy summer. That is a lot of time! Now see? It doesn’t feel as rushed when you look at it that way, does it?
Here is my point. Our generation as a whole has become hyper focused on scheduling. If our child is interested in baseball, we put them on a team instead of gathering a few friends and playing baseball at a park. If our child loves art, we find a class to take instead of buying art set for home discovery. If our child likes singing, we give him/her lessons instead of singing and making music with them at home. Classes are good things, and our family participates in a few of them. It is good to give our children the opportunity to develop what they excel in. But when we make everything structured, we leave little room for creativity and boredom. And boredom is where creativity blooms. Boredom is where we find our passions.
***Disclaimer: I LOVE schedules. I LOVE planning things. I LOVE planning ahead of time. I use a PAPER planner for homeschool. I am a teacher. Planning is my love language. So obviously, leaving room for boredom is a stretch for me, but it yields such beautiful results. I am addicted to boredom! If you are like me and resist having downtime, this post is for you.
Having an only child, I struggle with this every summer. She would play with me every day all day if I let her. So of course I would love to have her in a different VBS or camp every week just to give me some down time. But I greatly value the art of boredom and have fond memories growing up in the 1980s where I would run up and down my street playing with friends. No structure. No schedule. I would wake up at 7:30 and go outside waiting for the other kids to come out. My best memories were not of VBS or those scheduled camps, lessons or classes. They weren’t even found in our vacations which were very few but special. My best memories were found with my friends underneath the bed of my dad’s truck where we found shelter from the sun and would eat a snack and chat. . . . .or that day when we got out paint that probably had red dye #40 in it and did face painting outside with all the neighborhood kids. . . .or when we drew a street on our driveway and roller skated around it. . . . .or when we found an empty lot across the street with a big pile of dirt and turned it into a construction site for our dump trucks and diggers. What great memories. They weren’t scheduled. My parents didn’t guide me in play. I just played. That’s really what we want for our kids, right? That they play, have fun and grow up with fond memories of their childhood. I will leave you with a few ideas for how to make this happen for your family. It can be difficult in the beginning because children will resist this idea if it’s new to them. And so will you if it’s new to you! But stay consistent, and you will watch them find joy in the mundane and the boring. And their creativity will shine.
- Daily outside play: Every morning is outside playtime for our daughter. It’s a cool time of the summer which removes one reason to complain. I don’t guide her in any way. I simply say. . . .it’s time for outside play. Stay outside and be creative for at least 30 minutes. If your child resists playing outside alone (mine does because she always wants me with her. Might be different for those with more children!), this helps them to discover on their own. And eventually, they love it and will voluntarily go outside to play. At first, my daughter would go out and just walk back and forth for the entire 30 minutes. That was her way of protesting. Silly girl. Her time has gradually evolved into creative play. But it takes time. And as a side note, being outside eliminates so much struggle. I noticed this when our daughter was really little. Outside = less discipline and more yeses. Children are made to be outside.
- Limit screen time: This is so hard, parents. However, we have seen our child turn into a happier child because of limiting screen time. When we do overuse it, she becomes very agitated, whiny and unhappy. So it’s just not worth it for us. We have a screen time limit of 1 hour per day, and it has to be after 4pm. Some days, she doesn’t even use that time and forgets about it. This time limit has helped her to stop asking for it all day long and limits the whining associated with it as well. I don’t want you to feel shame about this. If you need it, then use it. But set a daily time limit, save it for a long trip or an occasional thing for when you truly can’t take another minute of insanity.
- Hey you! Go outside: Yes YOU! The parent! An amazing thing happens when I go outside. My daughter FOLLOWS me. If you have a hard time getting your children to play outside, then you go outside. Work on the yard or read a book. Just literally walk outside. I bet they will follow you.
- Novel toys/games: Sometimes our toys and games get hidden, and I notice certain ones are not played with anymore. Bring them out sometime and place them in the living room or play room. You might be surprised at how they rediscover them. This is a good way to encourage creativity, and it’s fun to watch.
- Legos/blocks: We love blocks of all kinds. They will take your child’s creativity to a new level. At age 8, our daughter still plays with blocks, but she is mostly interested in Legos. She has a set up on her desk that is continually evolving. She will show me a new addition to the house every other day. If Legos are like glitter to you, I’m so sorry. You should take the risk anyway.
- Books: Have a square basket in the living room for books. We put our library books in there and switch them out every time we go. When we aren’t visiting the library, I just find books that haven’t been read in a while and put them in there for a new discovery. If your child is learning to read or already reading (K-3), The DK books are a great way to sneak in reading without having to read an entire book. These books are full of pictures and short facts about the topic. Our daughter doesn’t like reading long chapter books yet, but she will sit and read these for a half hour or more.