Those Summer Days

By: Diane Overgard

I can still hear the sound of red-winged blackbirds singing as i pulled my rusty old wagon down the path to the woods. When I got to "my" crabapple tree I would unpack my wagon... a ragged blanket to cover the thistles, three or four of my best pals (dolls and teddies), a stack of books, and a plastic jug of Kool-Aid. And then I was set for the afternoon. I could talk and pretend with my dolls until it was time to pack up the wagon and head home for supper.

That was really summer. With a loose schedule, those days were my time. In a recent FAMILY IMPACT survey, children from ages 4 to 15 were asked, "What would you like to do this summer?" The overwhelming response was, "PLAY!" Not one child requested more lessons, or structured time. It is also surprising that less than 5% mentioned any kind of a major trip or outing. Over and over what the children want to do is play: play with friends, ride bike, shoot hoops, fly a kite, go swimming, etc.

We are so fortunate to live in a culture which offers a wide variety of classes, camps, and lessons for children. These are generally terrific programs where children learn new skills, make new friends, and gain confidence. The difficult thing for us, as parents, is to make choices, and be sure to include as one of our primary activities, "down time."

"Down time" is for just playing, hanging-out, dreaming, imagining, tinkering, and thinking. It is during this time that kids think of new ideas, as well as figure out things about themselves and their abilities. Fields must lie fallow for certain periods, and so must children. Down time results in richer development later on.

Here are a few of my favorite "down time" memories:

- Dandelion stems curling in cold water.
- Pictures drawn in the dirt with a stick.
- A tent made from a rope tied between 2 trees and an old blanket.
- Hopscotch.

Can you recall some of you own "down time" memories? Share them with your child!

by Diane Overgard, CFLE and Co-founder of Family Impact, inc.


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