With Summer in full swing, you might be thinking about how to entertain your kiddos for the full three months. In the past, I’ve tried to be Super Mom in the summer. I’ve researched camps, activities, sites to see, and places to go. I know I’ve got to keep my kids stimulated and learning, or else they’ll get bored and start nattering at each other. I have grand plans, and most of the time we do a precious smidge of what I thought we could accomplish.
This summer I’m going to try something different.
Though admittedly this is still a plan, my goal is to foster independence and creativity. It even sounds beautiful. And my kids are gonna love it!
Remember when you were a kid and you walked to friends houses or set out on a bike adventure through the neighborhood? (Or some variation of that.) I remember having epic treasure hunts and riding bikes to get ice cream. This is something I’ve noticed our kids don’t do much. It could be a factor of our neighborhood, as it’s kind of hilly and there aren’t loads of kids running around. But I think it’s something bigger.
A few days ago, I found myself Googling when is it acceptable (read: legal) to let your kids stay at the library without you. You hear stories of people getting arrested for having their kids play in the park without supervision. So, we’re all scared to let them be independent. When is it ok?
They must learn how to do things on their own and navigate the world.
I’m not saying small children should be left to their own devices, but that as parents, we need to create opportunities for our children to be independent. To fail. And then how to get back up and try again. It’s often easier to do everything for our kids if we have the time. It’s faster, smoother, less messy. But then our kids don’t learn. And everything seems so hard!
They need a nudge.
Our boys, ages 10 and 12 this summer, are excellent bikers. We’ve been mountain biking as a family for years, and they probably don’t even remember a time when they couldn’t ride a bike. (I have my husband to thank for that, since he made it all happen.) We have a huge green space park basically in our backyard full of trails they’ve ridden a thousand times with us.
It dawned on me that they didn’t realize they could go out for a bike ride on their own.
Since we’ve always gone together, they’ve always had a parent with them. When kids grow up with a certain way of doing things, it’s hard for them to see that they can do it on their own or do things differently. There are plenty of ways our boys challenge the status quo and push back on the way we do things. But they needed a nudge to go out and explore by themselves.
The computer is a magnet that draws them back in of allowed.
They know the rules of the road, how to be polite and safe on the trials, and even what to do should they happen across a bear. (That can happen in our neighborhood.) And while I don’t like the idea of my children getting attacked by a bear, the chances are slim, and not exploring for fear of a random occurrence would keep us all in our houses without doing much of anything.
Let this be the summer of independence and creativity. Let them be bored, and figure out what to do without constant intervention. Let them build and make messes. (I will do them the courtesy of disabling the screens and devices so they don’t have that to fall back own. They’ll be so pleased.) Let them clean up those messes as well!
It’s good to remind our kids that they can do things on their own, provided we’ve done the prep work beforehand. If my child was new to riding, I wouldn’t push them to go out by themselves. Use your best judgement, but let them lead. Plus, it gives you a break as parents, though we need to know what’s going on, we don’t need to plan and orchestrate every little moment.
Every child will have something that they can do more independently.
They can do hard things, and we can do the hard thing of letting them! Yes, there is teaching involved. (Perhaps a lot if you’ve got younger kids or children who need more repetition.) Making the effort to give them skills is what parenting is all about, AND it pays off in the long run. (At least that’s what I’m hoping!)