The second John and I drove through our Colorado neighborhood we knew this is where we wanted to raise our children. It felt like a scene from a Disney movie, with deer and bunnies frolicking between the homes, majestic bucks watching from afar, and all the open space you could ever want. We had big dreams for our children’s “magical childhood” filled with adventure after adventure in the great outdoors….…only things didn’t quite happen the way we envisioned.
Like most children these days, our kids would much prefer to sit down in front of a screen than explore and play outside. John and I have spent many nights expressing our frustration and disappointment in the fact that our kids don’t spend enough time outside “being kids.” Over the years we’ve made some changes that have helped us more fully embrace the idea of “free play” in our family.A few years ago, I realized that our kids lives were so full of activities that they did not actually have the time to PLAY! Between soccer, piano, football, band, choir, gymnastics, scouts, school, homework, dance, church activities, swimming lessons, (this is no exaggeration by the way!) there was no free time. Obviously. One day I snapped and pulled my kids out of every single activity. We took a nice long break from all the running around and I cannot tell you how much happier we all were. Suddenly there was time to breath, time to laugh, and time to play. I think often times as parents we feel pressured to make sure we are giving our kids everything, which translates into putting them in EVERYTHING.
Now I’m certainly not saying it is wrong to have your kids in lessons and activities. For us, we were simply out of control and the break helped me see what we were missing out on because of the go-go-go schedule I had created. So how do you have a balance? Each family is different and you’ll have to look at your own lives and schedule, for us we’ve decided 2 is the limit! We encourage our kids to participate in something musical/artistic and something physical. If they want to try a new activity, they must give something up. Making sure there is plenty of unscheduled time in our day has become a top priority.After cleaning up your schedule as much as you see fit, my next tip is to create some guidelines to help get your kids outside and using their big beautiful brains to come up with activities on their own. We have very strict rules for screen time in our home and will often encourage (okay, sometimes FORCE) our kids out the door. They always end up having so much fun creating little games and adventures, even if it is a little bit of a struggle to get them started. Last but not least, probably the most important thing I’ve learned as a mother of five: LEAD BY EXAMPLE. We can not expect our children to get some much needed exercise and fresh air if we are sitting on the couch scrolling through social media. Yes, I do think kids should (and need) to play and explore on their own, but nothing beats free time as a family. John is a natural at this. He is always taking the kids on “adventures” exploring and discovering the world around us. He is great at pretending and playing, and always has us laughing and learning…okay, and sometimes cringing!I have never been great at playing pretend or silly games with my kids, it is definitely not a strength of mine. However, something that works for me is going on walks together. BUT instead of focusing on getting from one destination to the next, I try to let the kids take the lead and make as many stops along the way as possible. We find pretty leaves and ugly bugs, we take our time, and we don’t rush when they “get distracted.”I have so greatly come to appreciate a slower lifestyle with plenty of time for that good old-fashioned childhood we wanted for our children. All of us are so very busy and each just trying to do our best, don’t beat yourself up if this is something you’re struggling with. I encourage you to take a look at your lives and see if there are ways you can tweak things and more fully incorporate free-play in your life, I promise it will be worth it. Whether you’re in an apartment in the city or on a farm in the country, this earth is an amazing place filled with opportunities to grow and learn through simply having fun. I encourage you to get outside with your kids from time to time and just play.
Try not to rush, let them take the lead, and magical things might just happen. Thank you to Kamik for sponsering this post and their investment in our children’s lives. We are thrilled to be part of Kamik’s #FreeYourPlay movement and hope to continue to improve this aspect of our lives right along with you! Be sure to check out their blog for more information on the importance of free play and some fun ideas to get your kids going!