I’ll never forget a poem my pre-teen niece wrote a few years ago, about the fast race of life (as she put it) that involved waking up and having to go to school, rushing to activities, finishing HW and then off to bed for a new fast day.
We went camping by a lake recently and as I watched my 3 year old daughter walk to a pretend castle in the canopy of trees that surrounded us, as she imagined that a pile of leaves was a slide at the park, I saw how kids don’t have to have structured lessons to learn all the time. Give them some some space in nature and they will do great on their own. Playing in dirt, pouring water in and out of things, jumping in leaves, skipping rocks…kids need time to do this stuff.
But if we are constantly rushing them to and from back-to-back lessons, when do they have time to be kids? To observe nature? When do they get to run and play? To imagine and create? While structured learning has it’s place and is valuable, so does being able to learn and discover life’s gifts on their own.
I wouldn’t trade Laila’s baby music class for anything- but I had limits to how much we ran around and did. When we don’t set those limits…then what’s the cost?
As a yoga teacher for kids, I can literally see at times what a toll it can be on my elementary school age students. One child who always rushes to baseball after yoga which is at the end of a full school day told me, he looks forward to our final relaxation every time.
He just needs a minute to breathe.
This isn’t about child care, though, if you work full time or have more than one kid or whatever reason that summer camps may be child care since your kids are off from school, that’s not what I’m referring to here. I work almost the whole week, too. I’m talking about the way we schedule our children’s days as never ending lists and tasks and extra, extra, extra curricular activities.
As adults, in our fast paced world, don’t we often fantasize about being a kid again? Running around with neighborhood friends, finding hidden treasure and having all those hours in the summer to just play and be? Finding moments to just breathe?
So if we take that away from our kids, then what will they have to fall back upon?
The rush in the car from one class to the next?
The whirlwind of a day of karate kicks to swim strokes to tennis serves?
So this summer, when we aren’t taking fun trips as a family or when she isn’t in school part time while I work (her school is year round), I’m not enrolling Laila in any structured camps that I keep seeing flyers for everywhere. The soccer and frozen sing along and art camps seem appealing, but we will be fine. We have years for all of that.
For now, I plan to let her just play. And she will have play dates and see her friends socially in plenty of situations. On the days she is not in school, when I am not working/home with her, we will check out her favorite library books and garden and let her pretend fly in our backyard or pitch a tent of blankets in the living room as a fort.
I’m also not going to stress on making her count every tree or make her find the letters in signs she sees while we drive. Every little thing does not have to be educational all the time. (I’ll admit the Indian in me has a hard time there lol)
I’m going to let her be her toddler-self to explore and see the world in eyes that I don’t have anymore, that are so present and full of life that maybe I could learn a thing or two from her.