Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Put the calendar away, let the kids chart the day

As the mom of a 12-year-old and the owner of a home daycare business, I am constantly faced with other parents and their unending need to plan a “play date” or enroll their child in some sort of class or lesson. A vast majority of “today’s parents” have an insatiable appetite for activities and play dates. But, why? I don’t hear their children begging to go to so and so’s house or to join the local kids gym or to do any of the five to ten things kids seem to do in a week. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in music lessons, learning to swim, playing a sport and playing with the kids in the neighborhood, but within reason. Children are designed to work and what is their work? PLAY! When we as parents have our children so involved with planned activities that there is no time for unstructured play, we short change them and they fail to learn one of life’s most necessary skills, independence. Over-scheduled children are not learning to imagine what they could do with their own time. It is my belief that as we shuffle the children from one activity to the next and plan each moment of the day for them, all in the hopes of being a good parent and giving our kids “everything”, children fall short in learning to care for themselves and to chart their own course. By planning so much for them, we often fail to help them discover their OWN passions. Boys may not want to play sports and girls may not want to do ballet. I was recently at a Highland dance competition. There amidst a sea of giggling girls was one lone young man, determined to win first place and win he did! What if his parents hadn’t asked him what he wanted – do you think they would have enrolled him in dance? Probably not. But look at the confidence, security and life skills he is learning by charting his own way and succeeding! My advice to all parents is to take a moment and put the calendar away. Encourage your children to plan their own fun for a day – you’ll be amazed with the wonder they can create and the things they will discover about their world and their own lives.

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