Activities and play for children is a hot topic, especially when it is a matter of what a parent or caregiver can do for their children to assist and support their growth and development over the summer. It’s a question that is asked now that really wasn’t an issue twenty years ago, as we let our children be children. We encouraged play, free time and relaxation, for both the child as well as ourselves.
Society has changed considerably in twenty years. We have developed higher expectations of our children. As parents we have filled every moment of our day with things we feel we must do in order to be a good parent, because as a group we have decided to listen to what society is dictating. What happened to our sense of reason? Our ability to find our own identity and not tie it to our children and their accomplishments? I am one person who believes that this is hurting our children, not helping them.
So what can we do? Let’s go back that twenty years. The following are suggestions that can help with not only your child’s growth and development, but as their parent, yours as well.
- Relax. Your child will be just fine if they don’t attend that summer course designed to reinforce the rote skills that they learn though out the school year.
- To reinforce what they have learned and accomplished all year, let them put into practice. Children learn by doing, by actively participating in their learning, let them PLAY. Let the child wind down, experience quiet, self-directed, peaceful play. I am not talking video games, computers or television so much as physical activity, from regular classes in ballet or karate or art, to free time to get dirty, run around kind of play activity.
I can just hear you now…dirty, my child play in the dirt, mud and the germs! My child run around and really sweat? YES! That is exactly what I am saying. Children, in order to move forward, mature and develop need to be involved in self-directed play. They need to make up their own rules as they go along and figure out what will and will not work as they interact and learn socially as an individual and within a group. They need to use their imagination to design and develop their own ideas .
In our schools now, children are not given this opportunity. Instead, recess has been reduced or cut entirely. Children who set out to make up rules within the group are considered bullies now. The behaviors that develop work ethic, accountability and character are discouraged to the point of punishment daily in our schools. The importance of school as one of our first social institutions is that it is supposed to teach us how to navigate our social world and find our place. The developmental milestones necessary to social development are seen as behaviors to be punished (it is the opinion of this author that the punishments are not only unwarranted, they are often unjust and fail to meet the standard of being).
Summer is a time for children to let loose, experience by participating in their environment and move forward without threat of punishment. Activities are important to reinforce structure outside of school, however during the summers: play, and encourage FUN!