Economy Hits Summer Camp, More Free Time for Kids
A little boredom, after all, is an important part of growing up. And our heavily scheduled kids just don't seem to have as much free time as we did as kids. A camp-free summer, say experts, just might give our kids that free play time they so desperately need. "Parenting is a higher calling than being a cruise-ship activities director," Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld, psychiatrist and author of "The Overscheduled Child," tells Newsweek. "Boredom is not necessarily our children's enemy. It can stimulate [children] to think, create, and hear the soft murmurings of their inner voice, the one that makes them write this unusual story, draw that unique picture, or invent some new game."
A friend of mine -- her son is 12 -- had to drop camp this summer. She's using her own mother's method of handling boredom. "When he comes to me and complains, 'I'm bored,' " she says, "I just tell him, 'That's okay, I can find something for you to do.' Suddenly, he'll make himself the busiest kid on the block."
Think back to when you were a kid: What were some of your favorite memories? Ed Miller, of the Alliance for Childhood, bets most of them happened when adults weren't even around -- playing with friends, digging in the dirt, sledding down hills. "These are deeply formative and important experiences that build children's sense of competence, initiative, and self-reliance," says Miller.
I've written before about my own first grader, who refused to be signed up for any organized activity at all this summer. I was happy to comply, but I'm also happy to not entertain her 24 hours a day, and she knows that.
Instead, she and her sister have built a backyard clubhouse behind our big lilac tree. (And have created a secret handshake, which they refuse to share with me.) She's climbed trees, played house, spent a few nights with her Grandma. Many mornings, she can be found quietly playing in her room with her dolls. And when a friend called up to invite her to bring-a-friend day at her own camp, she looked at me suspiciously. "Just this one time, right?" She guards her free time like a bulldog.
I think summer camp will always have it's place in the American child's summer, but letting kids get a little bored this summer just might be a silver lining.
What do you think? Has the economy affected your ability to send your kids to camp? Do your kids enjoy a summer "off," or do they seem to prefer organized activities?
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.