Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Kid 2

Summer-Time

 

by Lisa Gromicko

Do you remember?  Those long summer days as a kid…  

Endless hours of play, tree climbing, making mud pies, flying kites, fishing, building forts, lemonade stands, catching fireflies/butterflies/frogs, swimming, watching clouds, swinging on swings, tea parties, making and sailing boats in the stream, playing Pooh sticks, jump rope, hopscotch, paper airplanes, rolling-down hills, daisy chains, skipping rocks, flashlight tag, backyard camping, whittling sticks, neighborhood baseball games (with self-made rules), building a tree house, hide ‘n’ seek… 


The summers of childhood are potent, enabling children to find their personal bliss, cultivating interests (and memories) that can last a lifetime.  The gifts of a slow and less-structured summer are precious, allowing time and space for the possibility of ‘magical’ activities to occur.  Both children and parents benefit from the opportunity to have less scheduling, to breathe-out, and to restore the forces of creativity and resiliency.


Yet, in today’s fast paced world, this opportunity is becoming rare.  According to a research study at the University of Michigan: compared to 1981, children today have as much as 12 hours per week, less free time.1  Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting – Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, urges parents to simplify their children’s schedules, to establish for children, “islands of being, in the torrent of constant doing”.2  Using the analogy of the “fallow field” to describe the downtime that nurtures children, Payne goes on to describe “crop rotation” as representing school or structured ‘enrichment’ classes or programs.  Just as the soil needs to be allowed to ‘rest’ for a season in order to be replenished, children need the same.  “Rest nurtures creativity, which nurtures activity.  Activity nurtures rest, which sustains creativity.  Each draws from and contributes to the other” (Payne, p. 139).


But, what about boredom, you may be asking – that dreaded state?  Boredom is a gift for children, writes Nancy H. Blakey “a rare fuel to propel them forward”.3  Bonnie Harris cites a lack of boredom in childhood today, as the reason that many graduates flounder in the “real” world.4  Boredom provides the necessity for children to discover their own passions, ingenuity and ability to be self-directed, all of which are critical lifetime skills.  Over-scheduling, often substitutes stimulation for self-discovery, preventing the experience of boredom and the tremendous, stored-potential that it holds for unlocking a child’s inner resources and imagination.  According to Payne, “…a child who doesn’t experience leisure—or better yet, boredom—will always be looking for external stimulation, activity, or entertainment… So much activity can create a reliance on outer stimulation, a culture of compulsion and instant gratification.  What also grows in such a culture?  Addictive behaviors.” (Payne, p. 151).  For the ‘unpracticed’ at boredom, there can be some discomfort with it, when we begin to carve out unstructured time for our children. With a little help though, children can learn to overcome inertia, to step into their own self-made joy and creativeness, a capacity that will serve throughout life.  With more of a focus on home and life, than on scheduling and classes, parents can also settle into a slower, more relaxed pace, which has untold benefits for all.


So, how do we find our way back to those long summer days?  The key can be found in golden ‘simplicity’.  Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods, www.cnaturenet.org writes, “The dugout in the weeds or leaves beneath a backyard willow, the rivulet of a seasonal creek, even the ditch between a front yard and the road—all of these places are entire universes to a young child.  Expeditions to the mountains or national parks often pale, in a child’s eyes, in comparison with the mysteries of the ravine at the end of the cul-de-sac.”5   He recommends allowing children the time to be in nature to take walks, listen, play, and learn.  As children’s senses are so overtaxed in the modern world, time in nature allows the senses to become enlivened again. Children with focus and distraction challenges, are helped greatly by spending time in nature. Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood writes,  “The loss of outdoor play and everyday adventures is particularly significant for children who have a tendency to be easily distracted or impulsive.”6 


One of the biggest benefits of a slow summer, for everyone, is ‘play’, itself.   Researchers are still providing compelling evidence of the essential need for this age-old, childhood past-time.  “The Alliance for Childhood” www.allianceforchildhood.org, recommends that children have at least 1 hour of unstructured play every day.  Daniel Pink points out that in play, the right side of the brain is activated, forging critical human capacities for the “Conceptual Age”, into which our children are growing.7   Cutting back on media (such as TV, movies, and video games) is also helpful in making time, for summer-time.


     Encourage your children to build a fort, make a lemonade stand or join you in laying in the grass, looking up at cloud formations.  These simple pleasures will potentially create and strengthen the most glorious, blissful and ‘boring’ memories of their childhood summers – and rekindle yours.   
 
 
  REFERENCES:

[i]

David Elkind, The Power of Play:  Learning What Comes Naturally, (New York, NY:  Da Capo Press, 2007), ix.

[ii]

Kim John Payne with Lisa M. Ross, Simplicity Parenting, (New York, NY:  Ballantine Books, 2009), xii.

[iii]

Nancy Blakey, The Gift of Boredom – The Cauldron of Creativity, Mothering Magazine July/August 2001.

[iv]

Bonnie Harris Connective Parenting, Give the Gift of Boredom This Summer,  archives: July 2009, http://www.bonnieharris.com/index.html.

[v]

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, (Chapel Hill, NC:  Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2008), 172.

[vi]

Sue Palmer, Toxic Childhood, (London, England:  Orion Books Ltd., 2006) 61.

[vii]

Daniel Pink, A Whole New Mind-Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, (New York, NY:  Penguin Group, 2006), 187.
 
  
 
 
Lisa Gromicko is a kindergarten teacher at Boulder Waldorf Kindergarten.  She has spent many long summers with her sons, now 20 and 17, and looks forward to many more.

  
             

 

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Special thanks to Bear Creek Elementary School of Boulder for the drawings.

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