Less camps and activities: Here's why you should let your children be bored this summer
The school holidays are around the corner.
Which, of course, means that the kids are home for two whole months.
And with the majority of us having nowhere near two whole months of summer holidays from our own jobs, this often means a real juggle and carefully constructed schedule of activities, camps, babysitters, grandparents – and then, of course, any trips or travels pencilled in too.
And yes, I know for practical reasons, especially with young children who really need to be supervised at all times, camps and babysitters and scheduled activities might be the only way you actually get some work done during the summer, but when it comes to school-aged kids, maybe it's time to dial back the Tiger parenting a little...?
Just imagine – what if we didn't drive ourselves around the bend trying to make sure our kids are entertained every second of every day...? What if we just let them be bored? What if we just let them invent games and come up with adventures and entertain themselves – you know, kind of like we did when we were kids?
As in – I don't know about you, but during school holidays when I was growing up, my sister and I just played out with all the neighbour kids – a lot. We climbed trees and built dens and ran through the sprinklers (on warm days) and organised teddy bear picnics and literally always managed to come up with the most fun ways to pass the days.
Benefits of being bored
These days, I think us parents so often think we have to make sure each moment of the day should be one of enrichment and growth for our kids.
Nowadays, kids often expect us to interact with them all day because they've been taught this, but guys – kids' brains are developing whether we are personally stimulating them or not.
Speaking to Mother.ly, anthropologist Dr. David Lancy from Utah State University believes that "Parents have taken on all these extra obligations because someone has convinced [them] that they are essential for optimizing a child." But kids need surprisingly little interference from adults, observes Dr. Lancy, adding, "They are born knowing how to create their own toys, design their own games and to settle their own arguments."
And being involved every minute of your kids' day doesn't leave much room for self-discovery. Dr. Lancy states, "[W]ith too much instruction, children miss out on the opportunity to learn how to learn through self-exploration and observation." He believes this is a valuable skill that will help them adapt to challenges in school and give them an edge in life.
Interestingly, in most other cultures, parents don't believe it's their job to constantly teach, entertain and play with their kids.
Instead, parents welcome kids into their adult world and believe that they will learn and grow—at their own pace—by watching, helping and doing what captures their attention. In our lives, this means that if a child shows interest in an activity, like gardening, the parent should hand them a shovel and have them work independently alongside them—and let them learn from their mistakes.
As a result, experts believe that children become very skilled at what is called the art of "solitary absorption," where kids learn to keep themselves busy, without parents' intervention, direction or observation.
And so this summer, how about we give our kids the gift of boredom? Of less scheduled activities, less camps, less plans – and just let them be kids – with all the magic and imagination that means? It might just be the greatest summer gift we can give them.