As I prepare for back to school — which, for me, invariably means a much busier work schedule — I am pondering what child activist Marian Wright Edelman once said: “We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”
The relaxed pace of summer is coming to a close and soon many parents will find themselves packing lunches, arranging before- and after-school care, and shuttling kids around town — and to the city — for classes and lessons all aimed at enriching their child’s experience of life.
Which makes me stop and wonder: How much enrichment does childhood really need?
Yes, opportunities to learn an instrument or second language and play sports are truly wonderful and those of us fortunate enough to be able to send our children to such activities can count our blessings. However, over-subscribing a child comes with a cost. When extracurricular activities leave little if no time for imagination — free, unstructured play — and boredom (yes! boredom!), I am hard-pressed to find an unencumbered benefit. It is in these moments when children become their most creative, determined, resilient and adaptive.
According to a University of Michigan study, children have lost 12 hours a week of free time since the 1970s. That is one waking day out of every week!
For many kids it’s not just a factor of busy-ness. When children are on screens — an average, some say, of eight hours a day — their connection with family, friends (real ones, not just those online) and nature is seriously jeopardized.
Helping your child reclaim some of that “lost” down time gives him the opportunity to relax, rest, and thereby integrate what they learned and experienced in their day. It doesn’t matter if this is done while reading to oneself, playing an instrument, creating art or even baking. Better yet, enrol your child in chopping vegetables for dinner!
Pulling back, even just slightly, can create lasting impacts in your child’s demeanour, behaviour and attitude. When a child is less hurried, has time to process her thoughts and emotions, and can fully engage in the few activities she loves is when a parent will see the so-called rewards of a happy, fulfilled young adult.
This fall as we head back into the more hectic nature of school and activity, I encourage all of you to take a stand for your child’s childhood. Not everything need be about enrichment. Let’s leave some time for imagination, free-time and… boredom!
Kirsten Andrews offers Simplicity Parenting courses, workshops and private consultations in the Corridor. A new class begins Sept. 21. For details visit Sea To Sky Simplicity Parenting on Facebook. You can also visit www.SeaToSkySimplicityParenting.com or email email@example.com.