Summer is quickly coming to a close and while the temperatures are still high enough to allow us into the pool and barbecuing late into the evening, routine and schedules are on the horizon. My oldest two children, Jack who is 11 and Zoe, nearly 10, are quickly reaching a point in their lives where their interests are varied and changing. We spend a lot of time with the younger kids going to the park, playing puzzles, painting, and otherwise engaging with them doing things that keep their attention. The long days of summer are the perfect time to take stock of where each child is at emotionally and socially, as we make sure to give them enough time to really find out what they’re interested in.
The big kids are a little different, in that we have always been in the habit of planning and structuring their days and time that they have had a harder time learning to be self-motivated rather than bored. Creativity and imagination come from within and cannot be forced. Together with GoGo SqueeZ, we’ve partnered to share their BE Time initiative and embrace the beauty of unstructured, unplanned time for kids. We chose to let them “get bored” and see the magic that ensues. We found that at first, it was definitely a challenge to leave them to their own devices (without actual devices), but once they found something to focus on, they entertained themselves for at least an hour or so. They got creative outside and built forts with old moving boxes and decorated them with markers, Zoe turned to cooking and baking treats to sell to the neighborhood, raising money for our charity in Africa, and Jack created games with Beau with their bikes and basketball challenges.
In today’s modern, always-on and over-structured world, kids today have less than 30 minutes of unscheduled free time per day—the lowest in history—to simply BE kids. I was truly shocked at these numbers, but when I think about all the time I spent in my back yard playing house and making mud pies with my sister, it absolutely made sense. While we don’t allow video games or iPads unless we are traveling, we already limit screen time to a show or two during the day or evening. I have definitely been the parent that schedules and plans camps and other activities for the kids to make sure they’re not only having fun but learning and socializing at the same time. It didn’t even occur to me how much they were missing out on by being forced to use their own imagination to entertain and busy themselves, and how much of a useful and necessary tool it is to know how to do that.
GoGo squeeZ’s BE Time initiative, to implement more 30 minutes of unplanned and unstructured time into our children’s days, was such a great reminder and inspiration for me to be more deliberate about giving my children the quality “kid-time” to benefit them physically, emotionally and socially. It’s been the best experiment for them, too-learning about what they really and truly enjoy doing and are interested in. Watching them explore their own creativity without my guidance or involvement has been the most wonderful thing to witness, and I am so happy to have had this reminder to incorporate BE Time into their summers.