0 07/06/2012 parenting

Free-Range Fun

I was inspired by Jason’s post about boredom, in which he refers to this article by Tim Kreider in the New York Times. The article, called “The Busy Trap” bemoans our modern culture of busyness – how it affects every aspect of our lives, including our children and their programming (or over-programming, as the case may be). It’s a topic that’s much on peoples’ minds these days: how busy we are or perhaps rather, how busy we choose to make ourselves. You know how it goes: all this technology that was supposed to save us so much time in fact just makes us more accessible, more hungry for byte-sized pieces of information, less able to concentrate, and so on. 

In his post, Jason reminisces about the unscheduled days of his childhood summers, filled with imagination, adventure and skinned knees, and looks forward to his sons spending some time this summer engaging in the same kind of free-range fun. He ends his post with an appeal for feedback – are other parents planning some unscheduled, unprogrammed time for their kids this summer? Judging by the comments, many are, at least to some degree.
And I count myself in that number. After spending a few summers programmed to the hilt, my daughters staged a revolt and demanded “NO MORE DAYCAMPS!” Figuring it would save me some shekels, I agreed, and last summer they were enrolled in absolutely nothing. We had a visit from Jen and her kids, and we spent a week in a mountain resort with friends. But outside those weeks, we spent the summer living by the seat of our pants – going to the amusement park, the zoo, a movie, or maybe just hanging out at home. I continued this philosophy during the school year, with my oldest enrolled in only one extracurricular activity and my younger daughter in two. And yes, I get lots and lots of “I’m bored” thrown my way. But like anything, once they get used to hearing “I’m sorry you’re bored…what would you like to do about it” (or another variation on the sam theme), they become more industrious and begin to make their own fun.
Which is, for the most part, awesome. Inspired by books and movies, they create plays and videos, or engage in imaginary play for hours. The main theme of such creative outlets for the past few months has been The Hunger Games – I’ve seen countless alternative endings played out in the stage of our family room, and my older daughter even used iMovie to create a theatrical trailer for the second book in the series, Catching Fire. They build forts in the backyard and pretend to be Katniss and Peeta hiding in the arena. 
fort.jpg
They also love crafts. Inspired by TLC’s new show, Craft Wars, they got busy the other evening and asked me to give them timed challenges. To the sounds of “crafters: you have one hour left!” they got busy with scissors and needle and thread to make homemade teddy bears. 
crafts.jpg
It’s inspiring to see my children become so eager to use their own imaginations, and to see them becoming completely engrossed in a time-has-no-meaning way in their creative pursuits, without relying on me to tell them what to do. 
It really is.
At least that’s what I keep telling myself as I clean up the mess in the backyard, and on the carpet, and at the kitchen table.
Hey…maybe there’s something to this over-programming stuff after all!

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