August 3, 2012
Free time also important for our children

Fri, Aug 3. 2012

We are into the last month of what used to be called the ‘August holidays’, now known as the ‘summer vacation’, in keeping, perhaps, with the term used for this time of the year in North America.

This long vacation from school, leading up to the start of the school year in September, used to be the time when children ran free in their neighbourhoods, climbing trees and exploring nature, going to the beach, playing red rover, coop, jacks, cricket or football, skipping rope, making toys and handcraft, reading books or just helping out around the home and in the garden.{{more}}

Over the last ten years or so, it has become popular for parents to enrol their children in one or more of the many summer programmes which have sprung up. These programmes vary from remedial classes for those thought to need it, to vacation bible school and programmes which offer our youngsters the opportunity to take part in recreational activities. There is the long standing public library programme, the popular coastguard programme and day camps which focus on swimming, cooking, science, art, etiquette, tennis, music dancing, website design and videography, among other pursuits.

These camps and summer programmes keep our youngsters engaged and stimulated. They also no doubt function as baby sitters in an era when neighbourhoods are not as safe as they used to be and grandmothers and mothers work outside of the home, leaving parents with no option but to send their children somewhere where they know they will be safe.

In all of this, we should not forget the importance of rest, exercise and free time for the development of our children. It is during unstructured play that they learn to think creatively and innovatively and how be problem solvers. The importance of time spent by children outside of the house playing and arguing about the rules of games, without the intervention of an ever-present adult, exploring their environment and creating imaginary worlds with toys, should never be underestimated.

Rest and exercise are also crucial for our youngsters’ health and well-being. Learning and memory are at their best in well-rested children, so before our children return to school, parents should ensure they allow them a few weeks of “me” time to relax, so that come September, they will be at the top of their game!