That was my mom’s favorite line each summer. (Somehow I suspect it is not original to her.) My summer vacations in elementary school were one long blur of bike riding, tree climbing and backyard baseball-kickball-dodge ball games that lasted all day. Well okay, there might have been some mini bonfires too, but shush. The only plan for the day was that I left the house after breakfast and returned (reluctantly) around 6 PM for dinner and a bath. But if I begged, some nights I could return to the cul-de-sac for one last bout of kick the can — that is, until it became too dark to see, at which point we would chase lightning bugs. Ah, summer.
Thinking back on that time, I am sad for my own children who don’t have such unstructured time and certainly do not play outside nearly as much as we did. Yes, it is a different era. These days with both parents working or in single-parent households, my childhood school vacations (and let’s face it, unstructured because my parents couldn’t afford to send us kids away to camp, and thought that children should entertain themselves anyway) are almost a luxury. Certainly, kids roaming unsupervised is both unwise and unsafe in many contexts these days. But when I tell my kids about my summers, they laugh and think it sounds “boring.” And then someone asks to use the iPad. Ugh!
As Zeno is busy filling up our rosters with Summer Math Camps (which ARE awesome by the way), I can’t help but wonder what things kids are doing nowadays that are less structured, less wired, and more exploratory? What kinds of things will get your kids out in nature, perhaps counting the veins in a leaf, or noticing the spiral pattern in a shell?