Last spring our mailbox was crammed with glossy brochures filled with summer opportunities. Day camps, overnight camps, weekly classes, weekend trips. They all sounded like fantastic new experiences that our kids would enjoy and remember for a lifetime.
“I just want to be at home,” my 10-year-old son glanced at the brochures and said, “But Mom, the schedule is always so busy. Let’s skip camps this year and just be home.”
I was hesitant but agreed to try it. And it was the best summer ever!
School has started now, and I’m reflecting on our summer together–trying to decipher what made it so special. Although our calendar looked wide open, never once did I hear the words, “I’m bored.” Many mornings we woke up, ate a relaxed breakfast, and the kids played in the backyard in their PJs.
Other mornings they planned projects or day trips. Running through the sprinklers, pond explorations, geocaching and gardening got us out and about. The kids created neighborhood news shows, played board games, and did science experiments with their friends. Blanket forts, books of all kinds and composing music kept us busy on rainy days and hot afternoons.
I’m pretty sure a good part of the magic was that we “planned” significant time for play. A recent New York Times article, Let Kids Play voices concerns that our culture is not very playful. It’s pretty easy to see that our work ethic has sat down hard on one end of the teeter-totter of life!
The Times article describes nearly endless benefits of play for children; through play kids discover the world and develop their unique selves. They learn to take turns and interact with the significant people in their lives.
That brings me to my favorite part of the experiment–we spent quality time playing, and wandering, and wondering together. I think our family is even stronger than it was before our “summer at home.” That will last far past the summer and even this school year.
Though I went into the experiment with a little anxiety, I was surprised and very happy with all we learned during our unscheduled summer.