It’s summer. Time to sign the kids up for a bunch of activities so that they won’t get bored, right?

muddy fun

Maybe. To an extent, perhaps.

Or maybe it’s better to give them some time to be kids. For having fun on their own terms. And yes, to be bored.

I’m not entirely against signing kids up for activities. I’m for limiting them. That’s because I don’t think children need to grow up having someone else always directing them in what they should be doing.

I certainly don’t blame kids for getting bored when they’re told to get out and play. Too many have too few chances to do just that. Most parents today are far more protective than our own parents were of us. My mother considers me to be much too protective at times. Yet I give my kids more freedom than many other parents I know.

One of my favorite things to do is to tell my kids to just go out to the back yard and play. They may grumble, but they’ll do it. And they’ll generally be having a blast in a fairly short amount of time. All I have to do is sit back and keep an ear open for the occasional screams. Meanwhile they’re finding bugs, nibbling as allowed in the garden, digging, getting utterly filthy and having fun.

If you don’t have a fenced in back yard and your kids are too young to play in unfenced areas unsupervised you do still have options. You can go with them and just lightly supervise. No hovering. Encourage the kids to settle their own arguments. Tell them to decide for themselves what is fun.

You’ll have to keep a closer eye if there’s a body of water nearby, of course, or other hazards, but children can play more or less independently even if you’re watching them. You just have to not join in each and every time. Play with them some of the time, of course, but encourage your kids to take the lead and to not always need you to play in order to have fun.

Just think about the things you remember most about growing up. Was it the classes you took, the activities you signed up for? Or was it the stuff you did on your own?

Chances are, it’s a combination. There may have been some classes or activities that really were that special to you, but doing things all on your own is probably a big part of your favorite childhood memories. No pressure, just time to be you.

And that is why I say some activities are fine. They can give kids the memories we want them to have. But the most memorable times are still likely to be just general fun things they did on their own or with friends.

Stop listening to all the people talking about all the activities their kids are in. Plan any activities based on what will work for your family, not on competition with other parents. Let your child learn what it is to win, to lose, to be creative, to get hurt at least a little, to be independent, to get so dirty you immediately throw him or her in the bath, to explore and to just be a kid.

Trust me, they’ll enjoy it. You probably will too.