“Every child has inside him an aching void for excitement and if we don’t fill it with something which is exciting and interesting and good for him, he will fill it with something which is exciting and interesting which isn’t good for him” -Theodore Roosevelt
It’s true. Kids left to their own devices often find themselves quickly stumbling into mischief. This is even more so during the long, lazy days of summer where within five minutes of having unstructured time the inevitable, ‘Mom, what can I DO?’ question arises again and again.
Compared to my childhood, our children today have tons more access to organized activity. I remember signing my oldest son up for baby classes to promote physical and mental development. At least that’s what the brochure said. I really signed him up because I was a stay-at-home-mom desperate for adult interaction. I had to be desperate if I was willing to sing kiddie songs holding my baby in one arm while grasping and flailing a portion of rainbow-colored parachute in the other.
From the day they are born, there are classes and options for our children. They don’t really have a chance to just be. They don’t fully know how to find contentment inside an ordinary moment. They are constantly looking outside themselves or to their parents to keep them fully entertained. There has to be a balance of helping them find ways to stay entertained, and for them to learn to keep themselves occupied.
Now that my boys and I are fully into the thick of summer togetherness, here is what I am learning. My younger one is more creative and artistic. I try to carve out time for him to have art projects, build with Lego’s or do word puzzles. My oldest is an avid and passionate reader. I am constantly helping him find books to read since he goes through them like water. He also likes to learn. Thankfully there are lots of educational games and apps that he can use in this regard. Some of our favorites include Peak-Brain Training (peak.net), learning a language (duolingo.com) and Brain Pop for learning about a wide range of informative topics (brainpop.com).
Each day my boys are on break I like to incorporate and help develop things that they find interesting. I also make sure that they have free play. This is where we negotiate a time-frame and they have to play games they create using their imagination. Some days they drag their feet when it comes to imagination time, but usually, this ends up being the most raucous fun they have all day. And, yes, this is the loudest part of the day. I’ll take the loud as long as I keep getting to hear their laughter. Just don’t expect me to throw a rainbow parachute up in the air and sing about it. Those days are thankfully over.
Written by Diana DeVaul, MSW and Parent