It’s 7:40am. The sun is just peering over my RV and in the distance there’s a small travel trailer. A father and his two children are packing up and getting ready to leave. Well, I should say, the father is packing up. The kids are doing something called playing.
The kids are not concerned with how the trailer is connected or why the wheel chocks are removed, they are just playing. There are no screens, no toys or balls, no stress. They run around the truck, frolicing through the grass and playing on the picnic table. They have no care in the world because they are being kids.
Kids have the unique ability to enjoy life wherever they are. I remember when my kids were very young, they would play with frogs and grass and occasionally reach for a wasp or bee. They didn’t need fancy devices, they would just play with a cardboard box! Kids are hardwired to find joy in everything, until they are taught to grow up.
We, as parents, too often place “natural play time” on the shelf of “unnecessary” things to do and rush to fill our kids’ schedules with productive responsibilities.
Now, let me be clear, when I say play time, I am not talking about screen time. I consider that to be a true waste of time and something that should be dished out in a very minimal way. No, I am talking about creative play where kids use their imaginations to build things. The kind of play where they run around and pretend to be an airplane, where they choose to be a mom or dad raising a family, or a cat or dog. That is real, and productive play time.
Too many times we get caught up in our busy lives and usher our kids right into the rat race without even realizing it. After preschool they go from play to work and they never get to look back. 8 hours a day + homework is crammed into their lives for 12 years, then we add bills and jobs on top of it. Where is the play time?
When kids play, they develop a massive list of skills that are necessary later in life for relationships and business.
As noted in this article from Harvard Health: (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/6-reasons-children-need-to-play-outside-2018052213880)
“Children need to learn how to work together. They need to learn to make friends, how to share and cooperate, how to treat other people. If they only interact in very structured settings, such as school or sports teams, they won’t — they can’t — learn everything they need to know.”
So what is the solution? How do we help kids be kids and grow up slowly?
Here are 4 tips!
- Drastically reduce screen time.
Our kids are 11 and 13 and get 30 minutes of screen time a day. Yep. That’s it! And you know what? Some days they skip out on that 30 minutes because they are playing. They are SUPER creative and love playing with friends. They don’t often get bored because they are used to building things in their minds and with their hands. A little screen time is helpful if they are playing the right games, but nothing is better than old fashioned ingenuity built out of necessity. We can help them develop this by:
- Getting with other kids who are creative so they can learn new ideas.
- Giving them creative toys like Lego, wooden blocks, Dolls, cars and marbles.
- Introducing them to art such as drawing, painting, and sketching.
- Playing with them and introducing creative ideas as parents.
- Reduce time in school.
This is another reason why homeschooling is far superior to traditional schooling; it gives you control of your child’s schedule. There is a common myth that kids need to be doing something productive to call it school. On the contrary, childs play is a valuable learning tool that is imperative for success, all they need is a little guidance. Our kids spend approximately 2 hours in school per day, the rest of the time is spent playing and learning. They LOVE learning because they are doing it naturally and any child that is enjoying the process of learning will retain much more than a child that is forced to learn against their will.
- DO NOT GIVE THEM A PHONE!!
Study after study shows the damaging effects of phones and screens on the minds of children. The addiction that comes with these devices is very real, but some parents aren’t even aware of it. Just try setting your cell phone down for 1 hour and count how many times you reach for it. Children do not have the ability to regulate this properly so they become obsessed with the device. They anticipate the dings and rings and rush to fill any void with mind-numbing games that sweep them away from reality. This, in turn, produces socially inept children who don’t even know how to converse with others, much less thrive in life. Worst of all, these devices are most often given to them as a pseudo babysitter to alleviate the parents of spending quality time with the child. This produces mental health issues across the spectrum and cripples kids for life.
- Change your environment and your tribe.
Take a look at your surroundings. Are you caught up in a crowd of people rushing from work to the ball field, to the birthday party, to the school to the church? If so, GET OUT! Listen to me, YOU WILL BE LIKE THE PEOPLE YOU ARE SPENDING TIME WITH! Nothing is more important than spending quality time with your children. Reduce the schedule. It’s ok if they don’t play baseball, if they skip out on the birthday party, if they have some down time. Stop filling up every second of every day and find you a new tribe of people who enjoy the little things. Changing the environment for you and your kids will facilitate this major mindset shift and give you more peace in your life.
We live in a world that is infatuated with busyness, things and money, so naturally they pursue that at 100 miles per hour! If you stop long enough to think about it, you will realize that life is about the little things; the board games, the conversations, the creative finds on a nature walk, the laughter at the dinner table. If we aren’t intentional about our lives, we will steal childhood right out from under our children and force them to grow up without any value for real LIFE!
Let’s get back to letting kids be kids and let them grow up slowly.
If you’re looking for more homeschool resources, check out our YouTube playlist with some excellent resources!