There is a trend that surfaces in the summer. It looks something like this:
I’m sure you have seen these checklists running rampant. My first thought was, “Clever idea for kids who struggle with too much screen time.” But then it seemed that this was only the tiny seed by which the giant tree grew, as many parents began creating lists for their children. I have seen lists for academics, some for screens, others just because it seemed like a good idea to ensure the summer was “productive”. Chore charts became creativity charts. There are charts for reading, character building, and kindness. Now, good for you if you just tend to be a parent who loves charts and your children flourish under the chart system. Chart away. But, as this beast has spiraled, I fear many non-chart flourishing parents are feeling the pressure to make the summer count.
Can I give you a pass?
It is okay to not have a summer reading program. It is okay to not have a “screen chart”. Because, maybe that one day in June, you wake up post-vacation overload and you just need to get some laundry done. Maybe the kids need to chill with a movie before they accomplish before 8 am what Mother Teresa did in a lifetime. It is not a waste for them to creative play and use their imaginations, and not because it is “49 min of creative time”, but because they have found something that has sparked their interest.
Children naturally desire to explore, stretch their minds and creative ingenuity. This is the mystery and beauty of childhood. We just need to step aside with our lists and give them the freedom to explore.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you pass out the screen devices and let your children assume a sloth-like slumber for the next two months. On the contrary, I believe you should take away the screens and offer them freedom to be BORED. When they complain, help them to embrace their boredom. Eventually, from my experience, children will push past the wall of boredom and breakthrough to the other side of wonder. It just takes time.
What about chores? What about responsibilities?
We do chores. All the day long we chore, but not because we have a list. We chore because it is part of being in the family and keeping up with the house. We unload the dishwasher when it is full. We pick up rooms when they are messy. We take out trash, clear tables, help set tables. You get the idea.
We also read. We read because we enjoy it. We hit the library and find books of interest. We have a book that we read aloud together each day whenever we feel like relaxing for a bit. We love to read.
We create. They are always creating.
We have no list, and I assure you, our summer will not be a waste.
Play is a child’s truest work. It is not wasted time. In fact, play is necessary for a child’s development. Through play, open time, and space, children can grow to love reading, creating, and learning. Not because they are forced, but because it is a natural overflow of who God designed them to be. Summer is the perfect time for interest-led learning and play.
The key is interest led… not parent led.
Put those kids to work. Read them a book. Let them read you a book. But please, take the stress off and let the lists go. Let them get so lost in play that the screens become an after-thought. I promise you that your summer will not be wasted.