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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 35 - The summer nothing happened

Back to school! As usual, the kids had a total of 9½ weeks of summer vacation this year. As usual, we had something planned for about 3 of those weeks (sending them to camp, traveling, seeing relatives, going camping). Which means there were still at least 6 weeks left unplanned.

As usual, I did not fall in the trap of booking them with activities 24/7. In fact, I organized pretty much nothing. After a full school year of tight schedules, I needed the break as much as they did. The only thing I made clear to them was that mornings would be dedicated to my - freelance from home - work, during which they could keep busy in any - safe and acceptable - way they saw fit. (Screen time was still limited to a max of 1 hour per day - figure out what to do with the rest of your time.)

As for afternoons, I wanted them to be left to the spirit of the moment. I wanted us to be spontaneous. Honestly, I also wanted us to experience idleness. Boredom, even. I longed to get lost in my thoughts, and I wished the same upon my kids.  Because, after all, having nothing to do has been shown to be good for children.

After three weeks of social gatherings, canoeing, swimming, hiking, fishing, bike rides, and other sports, campfires, restaurants, museums, parks and historical sites, you would imagine this sudden return to quiet would bore them to death.

When children are bored, two things happen. 1) They complain about it. 2) They start thinking. Boredom is the birthplace of creativity. Your brain has to generate original ideas. Something very important happens in the minutes that follow "I'm bored".

(Keep in mind that children who are not used to being bored might temporarily become annoying - let's not be scared to call things by their name here - but it should resolve if you give them a chance to figure it out.)

We did end up doing a couple fun things. We went to the beach. We visited - more - museums. We took walks in public gardens, in the woods, and on the waterfront. We visited the library. We went for bike rides. We played tennis. We picked berries. We flew a kite. We watched movies. We watched wildlife. We watched shooting stars. We baked. More importantly, we talked together.

But a lot of the time, I just let them be (and they returned me the favor). It was wonderful. I had time to exercise. To chat with friends. To read. To write. To hug my dog. To smell the flowers. To daydream. (Ah, the wonders of daydreaming! For more on the topic, click here.)

Left to their own devices, what did the kids do? They drew. They read. They wrote stories. They did self-directed crafts (my living room is now decorated with a sailing ship made out of cardboard boxes and rags). They played with Lego. They built forts. They played basketball on the street. They practiced their piano. They rode their bikes ad nauseam. They played outside with the neighbors.

Because I'm a cruel mother (ahem), they even helped with chores. The oldest was also hired by a neighbor to water his garden while he was away.

The only moment I heard them complain was whenever I told them to reapply sunscreen.

My kids are not saints for being able to thrive without structured activities and organized sports. Truth is, most kids can do the same... if given the opportunity.

A good friend of mine who also spent the summer at home with her children and did not plan much for them to do was commenting on how well-behaved they were. According to her, the reason was that they finally had time to rest. Most kids do so much usually, with school, organized sports and all, that they are exhausted... which has an impact on their mood. 

Children don't need their days to be filled with child specific activities. What they need is a safe environment in which they can explore and be creative. And when specific activities are happening, children don't have to be at the center of the plans. They can tag along. Simply respect their pace, get them involved... and let them be.


Mountains of paper have left my home office as I am going through my filing cabinets. This must be one of the best feelings in the world. If I can remain organized in the paper department, it will qualify as one of the biggest accomplishments of the decade!

Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. What an amazing summer you all have had and we are thrilled that we were a part of it!! Beautiful write up about your summer with your two amazing daughters!

  2. Sounds like your family had a wonderful summer, Julie!

    The filing cabinets are on my to-do list, don't remind me :-)

    1. I cannot recommend sorting through your papers enough! :-) So liberating.

  3. I KNOW this will end soon but here...for now...the child gets BoReD and turns creative.
    In a great way
    I love nine :-)

  4. Sounds as if you've all enjoyed a great summer.
    I'm so with you on giving children some me time too ... they don't want every minute of there day dictated to and arranged ... allow them space in a safe environment.

    Happy September

    All the best Jan.