Don’t Forget Fun and Free Time This Summer For Your Kids

A couple years ago, I watched a fantastic episode of Chronicle HD just around the time school was getting out for the summer. During that show, the host, Ted Reinstein, concluded with a particularly witty and poignant on air column: “Let Summer Be Summer”. The entire show was about summer and Ted had just a few opinions about what that should be about for kids. Here are a few highlights from the column:

  • “Not only may “freedom” merely be “just another word for nothing left to lose,” but many parents today act as if there is literally no time to lose once their child’s school year is over for the summer. Camps of all kinds, structured activities from the academic to artistic, and one-and-two-week intensive sports clinics — not to mention the earlier and earlier fall starting dates of school systems everywhere — have all combined to create the incredible shrinking summer vacation.”
  • “Some experts estimate that kids today have half as much free time as they did just 30 years ago.”

Ted quoted Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., the author of a book called “Einstein Never Used Flashcards….”. Hirsh-Pasek’s point is exactly what pediatricians have been emphasizing for years: free time is what kids need – and important to their growth, development and well being. How we fell off that band wagon is honestly a mystery to me. None of us had childhoods like our kids have – we had summers and free time.

Even our much beloved sports heroes get an off season. So, too, do our kids teachers! Perhaps it will help everyone to just view summer time as the “school off season” where the official rule book states “all kids will have lack of formal structure and plenty of time to just be kids. And, all parental attempts at plans must be kid-approved.”

I love Ted’s conclusion:

“Let your kid skip the soccer clinic or the computer camp. Yeah, someone has to basically be around, but cobble that together between parents.Summer’s here; let ‘em make some memories from something they discover, not that you have planned.So what if they flood a village?”

On air, he actually added the comment: “that’s why they call this summer vacation!”

At the time, this was music to my ears – and still is! With our kids becoming progressively more structured at such young ages, the summer may be their only season to just be “real kids” – to have that unstructured, carefree time to explore their own thoughts and interests, to have that free play that is so crucial to their development. And, to just have fun and let off steam in a way that they can’t do during the school year because of school and activities.

We’ve had an “antischoolyear” schedule over the summer for years and it’s been fantastic. So, give it a try. I promise all of you – kids and adults – will reap so many benefits that once the summer is over you’ll begin looking forward to the next one.


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