As a kid, like most, I anticipated it as a time of freedom and exploration. With the structure of school lifted, it was a time of allowing my imagination to predominate my thoughts and actions as I played with friends and spent time alone completely engaged in the moment. Fast forward to being a mom of three children ages 1, 3, and 5 and the pendulum seemed to have swung in the direction of anxious-what in the world am I going to do to keep my kids occupied for three months? Where once there was freedom it was replaced by a feeling of responsibility to be the resource for my kids summer months. No background in early childhood education, no money or desire to send my kids off to camps for the summer and a disdain for crafts…what was I to do? As any mom understands over time, experience and necessity lead to wisdom. As I have made my way through the past several summers I have learned these lessons: Revisiting memories of my own summers as a kid remind me that kids not only need unstructured time, they enjoy it! Instead of trying to fill their days with preplanned projects, I have learned to, once again, embrace the freedom that summer is meant to bring. As I allow myself the freedom to read a book, my children are thrilled to tap into their imaginations as they play in the woods. Sometimes my input can obstruct the skills they learn by creating their own games.
-While unstructured time is great, I balance it with routine. We have index cards that list several items to be done in the morning (make bed, brush teeth, put away dishes from breakfast, maybe a short math worksheet so that the past year of learning doesn’t slip away…) When they are checked off by me, it’s time to play. The kids are contributing to household duties, becoming more responsible and feeling part of a team and I am appreciative of the help.
-Each weekday we’ve come up with a theme. Monday is nature day and we may go for a hike or work on the garden, Tuesday is ‘try it’ day when we try a new food at a mealtime, Wednesday is ‘Washdown Day’ when we do laundry, Thursday is Thank You day when we find someone to thank and a creative way to say thank you, and Fridays we do a field trip somewhere, could just be to a Farmer’s Market. This provides a loose focus for each day that seems to fuel creativity and provide a platform for free play.
While I am confident that this summer will add to my ‘lessons learned,’ I am happy to report that the pendulum is swinging back in the direction of anticipation. This summer my kids will be 4, 6, and 8 and I’m 3 years older too! More than growing in age, I feel we are growing into a team working together to share household chores and providing ample opportunities for one another to enjoy the freedom and exploration that summer is meant to provide for EACH of us!