Don’t schedule all your kids’ free time

Mum-of-one Uma Ghosh Deshpande fights for your child’s right to do nothing this summer — and see the creativity blossom

Image Credit: Agency
Tabloid

With summer vacations soon approaching, like every parent, I too want to meaningfully engage my son during the imminent summer holidays. I saw a barrage of advertisements for summer camps, and I thought to myself that it’s fabulous that we live in a time when we have classes for every possible activity you could think of — playing board games, mini golf, improving your handwriting, listening to stories, dancing, cooking without fire — and the list goes on.

Later that day, I bumped into a mother of two boys last week and we discussed how enriching our children’s lives could be with such a variety of skills these camps offer. She mentioned that she has signed up for a few summer camps too. An indoor music and poetry appreciation camp in the morning, an outdoor sports camp for the evening; and a horse-riding camp on weekends.

Indeed it sounds like an impressive line-up, keeping boredom completely at bay.

But I was blank when she asked me what I have decided to enroll my son in. “Still thinking it through,” I replied.

Instantly my thoughts went back to my memories of my childhood summers. What it felt like to run around in the garden with cousins and friends, explore the house looking for things to do. We had hours and hours of free time, and none of our parents seem to be distressed about it. Those times were different, you’d say, and today children need a lot more stimulation. But by ‘scheduling’ every minute of their ‘free’ time, are we not living a paradox?

“My idea of free time is just that — it must be free, and fluid, not scheduled,” says Sunaina Vohra, a youth and family life coach at Athena Life Coaching. Sunaina schedules a few activities per week, leaving some time for school projects and homework, and the balance time is free. As a family, they encourage each other to spend more time outdoors, either playing a family game of badminton or golf or swimming.

‘Gadget-time’ is restricted and monitored, she says. She makes sure to tune into the child to see if they are truly enjoying the activity that they are enrolled in. Otherwise, it becomes a situation of forcing down the parent’s own thwarted ambitions, which causes burn-out in the child. And to gauge what the child really enjoys, that free time is important for the child to know himself better.

I believe that boredom is the mother of creativity. When you have nothing planned, no gadgets in hand, that is when your mind wakes up and creates magic. An imaginary story, a paper craft, a recycled pencil case — the mind is set free to create magic! And no coaching class could teach you that!

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