The carefree days of summer are behind us. Were they as carefree as we romanticize them to be? Summer means time – time spent outdoors, long stretches of time with “nothing” to do, time spent with siblings, neighbors and other kids with minimal adult intervention. Maybe you have memories of playing baseball on summer afternoons, hitting, missing, and throwing down the bat and heading home in a huff. Or perhaps you spent hours at the pool with your friends. Or maybe you lived in a more rural location and were able to amble through the woods, fighting imaginary villains, climbing trees and building forts – all without adult help.
Things change. And one of the things that has changed is the amount of unstructured time available to children. They are enrolled in programs after school, on weekends and sometimes in the summer months. If a child really wants to excel in a sport or interest, participating in it as part of a school program may not be enough. And everyone is expected to excel.
As school is starting, there are more and more articles appearing such as this one, focusing on the increasing levels of anxiety in our children. The upshot of this and much of the research about this topic points to the same things: “Kids need recess. They need longer lunches. They need free play, family time, meal time. They need less homework, fewer tests, a greater emphasis on social-emotional learning.” And all of these things that are stated as “needs” are things less and less available in our culture today, for many reasons. We know what children need – what they’ve always needed: time to dream, imagine, play, and enjoy the company of their friends and families – just like they always have.