As school comes to a close I look forward to a slower pace for the next 3 months! Honestly I don’t know who looks forward to summer more my kids or myself! While I know for many summer is a whirlwind of activity from various camps, activities and vacations, my family takes a different approach. After 9 months of school and after-school activities we look forward to the long lazy days of summer. This is my family’s time to rejuvenate and reconnect.
Long days are spent without alarm clocks or timetables. Instead we sleep in and stay up late star gazing or catching lightening bugs. Mornings and evenings are spent with casual trips to the pool or fountain, playing in the backyard or sitting under a shady tree reading a book. During the hottest part of the day I encourage indoor games, pillow and sheet forts, or a fun movie and picnic on the floor. My oldest has a few pen pals this summer (a sneaky way to work on reading and writing) and looks forward to receiving real letters in the mail! While my kids do have small chores and responsibilities they are quickly done and out of the way. One of our favorite and most rewarding activities is tending our small garden. We look forward to having garden fresh veggies all summer long and into fall! I love the unstructured sense of freedom we all have!
It was on one of our recent camping trips that I fully realized the importance for true unstructured down time. One of the things I realized on our last camping trip is my kids don’t need nearly as much stuff and structure as we think they do. They had a handful of books, a couple of buckets, shovels, a bean bag toss and ring toss game and guess what they had fun!! They never complained they were bored they explored the outdoors finding wonder in plants, wild life, playing in the sand, and collecting rocks and shells. Modern culture has created this sense of constantly needing to be “busy”. We feel like we have to fill every minute of every day with activity for us and for our kids or we will fall behind some artificial standard of life society has set for us. I know this because I have been guilty of it myself. I know that some things can’t be avoided, people have to go to jobs and we all have family and social obligations. I also believe it is important for our children to pursue their interests and talents whether it’s art, sports, dance or music. However, all this activity has to be countered with times to be still to allow our bodies and our minds to rest. This rest is what allows creativity to come to the surface especially for our children. I have learned some very important lessons about myself and my family by giving us unstructured free time. I love seeing my kids be creative and imaginative. I love being able to just be in each other’s presence it allows us to appreciate each other more and everyone benefits from the physical and mental reset. I find it allows us to cope and handle the stresses life brings in a more positive way.
I would encourage everyone to do their own family experiment with some unstructured free time and see the positive benefits it brings to your family. It might feel awkward at first and it might even be met with resistance but I challenge you to take a little time each week to unplug from screens and open up the calendar to just spend time together and see the difference it makes in time!