I was talking to a friend of mine who helps with kid's camps during the summer and she mentioned a little boy who had been put in one of her classes. She said that it was obvious from the start that he didn't want to be there. This was likely one of many camps he had been enrolled in and he subsequently felt frustration at being there. It made me sad. What his parents must think was a fun and exciting opportunity for him, was in fact something he didn't enjoy at all.
I'm not against camps, sports, or activities for kids in the slightest. However, my husband and I have decided that these sorts of outsourced activities will be the exception, not the rule for our family for several reasons. 1. I am a stay at home mom who has chosen and is able to be with my kids all the time. 2. We have several kids, so they are never lacking for kids to play with. 3. We want trips, camps, and activities to be special - not expected. 4. We want our children to want to be there and also to appreciate the privilege of participating in activities that we pay for and go out of our way to make happen.
The two words, "I'm bored." are words that I welcome in this house. Generally speaking when I hear that phrase uttered I greet it with great excitement. It means I get to bestow a job on the person who has spoken my favorite expression. I always need someone to do an extra job or two for me! A child being bored doesn't incite me to jump up and manufacture some sort of entertainment for them.
I didn't go into the entertainment industry for a reason. I'm a mom, which means I wear all sorts of hats, but one I refuse to wear is boredom exterminator. In my house boredom is the best medicine to produce creativity.
I've noticed something, though. My kids aren't bored. Even though they're not in five activities apiece (Let's just be real for a minute here. I have four kids. I literally cannot put them in five activities apiece.) they find plenty of things to do each day. They play with one another, they ride bikes, they build, they draw, they dress up, they make forts, they dig in the dirt. They do all the things I remember doing as a kid. I don't remember feeling forlorn as a child, or feeling as if my childhood were lacking something. My mom and dad didn't go out of their way to "make" my childhood spectacular, but they did allow me to be a kid, which was, by the way awesome.
At any rate, below is a list of things I do feel are essential.
5 Simple Ways I Enrich My Children's Childhood
1. Send Them Outside.
I literally make my children go outside. The more I do it, the less they protest. If they continue to protest I continue to enforce. I give them simple little things to make outside fun, such as tupperware and utensils for digging. Bubbles, magnifying glasses, and binoculars seem to add to the fun as well. I also go outside with them regularly. Sending them outside while I sit inside only serves to model a double standard.
I have a lot of computer paper laying around, in addition to lined paper for writing, but I also buy those big rolls of paper that you can cut off large pieces from. I tape them to the table and let my children's imagination run wild. Sometimes I will start the drawing for them, and sometimes they will have a scheme of their own. Painting, markers, crayons they can use all these things and it doesn't seem to ever get old.
Whether I'm reading a story, telling my kids a story I've concocted, or the kids are listening to books on tape, or they're reading themselves they relish the exploits of these fictional (or real) characters. The vocabulary lessons, history, and geography that automatically come into play with literature is undeniable. The more stories, the better. Books take children on adventures unparalleled.
Allowing my children to make their own decisions and do things that I'm not always immediately comfortable with (within reason of course), is hard but a necessary part of their growth and development. As they get older and they feel more and more inclined to stretch their wings and try new things I can choose to stunt their growth and clip their wings, or I can make the more difficult decision to acquiesce their desires. Their ability to make judgements based on a situation or to find a resolution when things go awry is directly linked to how much freedom I allow them. If I'm constantly questioning and correcting them on the inconsequential decisions they make they will start to doubt themselves. If I do not allow them proper amounts of freedom they will eventually resent me.
5. Being Present
This one may seem like a given, but it can be very easy to get distracted by the many jobs and other people who seem to demand attention. There are times that we have to tell our children, "No." or "Not now." because as much as we might like to we can't always do exactly what our kids want, when they want it. Our priority, however is our children and regardless of what we're doing being present and available to our kids speaks volumes to them as they grow. Just the knowledge that their parents are always at the ready gives kids a sense of worth and well being.
I don't think that a good childhood is measured in how much money is spent, how many extra curriculars are attended, or how many vacations are taken. I don't think that a good childhood is formulated. I don't know that it's as difficult as we want to believe it is. Every day for a child can be an adventure without all the bells and whistles we've come to think are necessary. Being a child is supposed to be simple. It is supposed to be the easiest time frame of a person's life. I'd rather keep childhood uncomplicated and stress free, at least for now while they're little! ;)