Last week, I was talking with a friend’s daughter and I asked about her summer plans and what camps she was going to attend. Well, the little cutie just smiled at me and said that her summer plans include sleeping late, getting to watch television in the morning, and playing all day, most often at the pool. She said this with such glee. Girl made me laugh. Yet, she also made me realize that I had the expectation that she would be participating in a structured summer camp activity. I had come to view this as the norm. And it made me question why.
Let me reminisce…when I was a kid, summer meant freedom, a break from the daily structure and routine of school. We would spend hours biking around the neighborhood, playing at the pool, manning our lemonade stand, building a fort in the woods, and my personal favorite, trying to tame the kittens of the wild barn cats…it never did work. I had activities, such as swimming lessons, yet otherwise, I was not in camp every day all day.
And I still like to have more free time in the summer, to enjoy the weather and just play. Summer, after all, is my favorite time. Being outside, reading a good book is my peaceful place. Literally, I am solar powered. I tend to schedule fewer networking events during the summer and one group that I belong to even takes the months of July and August off. I also try to schedule clients into fewer days, which is easier with kids not being in school and having more flexible schedules, so that I can have extra free time, the majority of which I spend at the pool. One of my friends works as a school counselor, so he has the summer off and you can bet that he will be at the pool whenever the weather allows. In my building, he is affectionately known as “that guy that is always at the pool.” If this is still what we crave as adults, why should children be any different. So, to my friend’s daughter, I say, “have a blast!”
Of course, when both parents work outside the home and do not have relatives available for childcare, all day camps, every week, may be a necessity. And there are benefits to children participating in various activities and camps. Yet, if possible, I encourage you to think about the benefits of going old school with summer and finding a balance of structured activities and freedom.
“It is a happy talent to know how to play.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson