Thursday, June 7, 2012
Keeping My Kids Busy
Often I am asked how I keep my kids busy in the summer.
When I was a kid, my mother did not keep me busy in the summer and I have actually grown to think that this "how to keep the kids busy all summer" is a relatively new concept that falls in line with the new method of helicopter parenting and mollycoddling your kids so they develop no independence or imagination of their own. If we said we were bored, my mother put us to work doing some horribly loathsome chore, like cleaning out the garage or weeding the entire garden, so we learned to never complain about boredom. When I was a kid, we spent our summers playing with each other, reading, going for bike rides in our neighborhood. Sometimes we'd all go swimming as a family but in one of our houses, we got a membership to a neighborhood pool and back then, kids were allowed to go without a parent as long as we were eight years old or older and passed a swim test. The swim test consisted of swimming a certain amount of laps (I think it was three), treading water for one minute, and diving from the side of the deep end of the pool to retrieve something at the bottom of the deep end. Once we passed, we got our own little pass to the pool and we could come without our parents. My brothers and I spent every day, all day, at that pool the summers of 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. It'd be interesting to find out if they have such a swim test now. If they do, I'll bet the age has changed to older, but I'd honestly be surprised if they have such a swim test now, given the hysterical paranoia of many of today's parents.
Since I obviously can't send my kids to the pool on their own (and even if they had a pool around here that had the same regulations only one of my kids would be old enough to go on his own), and in today's world, we can't just kick them out of the house at 9 am and tell them to be home for dinner at 6 pm, it does end up falling on our shoulders as parents to keep them busy.
I'm lucky that my kids have been independent and entertaining themselves since they were little. I attribute this to the fact that I'm not the coddling sort of mother--I kind of have a bigger personal space and never really wanted my kids climbing on my lap and bothering me, so from the time they were walking, I've been telling them to go away and find something else to do. Very nurturing, I know, but when it comes to summer break, I really don't have to do much to keep them entertained.
They like to create works of art and stories galore. My oldest will spend hours piecing together instruction manuals for Lego sets that he creates out of the Legos we own or he'll make a book of facts about dragons that he comes up with on his own. Then he'll take his books and get the other kids together and they will use the information to build a giant Lego city or to track and hunt dragons. Lately, they're obsessed with Indiana Jones (courtesy of our Wii game, Lego Indiana Jones) and they found some cheap Indiana Jones-type hats at Hobby Lobby. They'll spend hours playing Indiana Jones, using the rope that I got when I made Jedi costumes for them a couple of summers ago as a whip. So really, them needing me to entertain them isn't really an issue. Oh, and I also let them play outside unsupervised, so that's another thing they do all the time--ride their bikes and play Indiana Jones outside.
I do actually have a routine that I stick with and some expectations for them regarding summer learning and chores and things, which I will share in another post, but I like to make sure they have lots of free time to stretch their imaginations. I think that is a really important part of childhood that a lot of parents forget about or don't think is very important anymore and lots of kids end up so scheduled with structured activities that they never develop this ability to entertain themselves and be creative. This is one of the reasons I love summer--my kids have more time to do this than they have during the school year.