Leave Your Kids Alone Until School Starts

leave your kids alone“You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again.” ~Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762

All the way back in the 1700s when there were crops to be picked, socks to be mended and plagues to fear, adults recognized the importance of free play. They beat their children with tree branches if they were disrespectful, but they still let them be kids.

Now, thanks to child labor laws, there is an abundance of free time for kids just to be kids, especially in the summer. Yet, instead of embracing it, we drain our bank accounts in the constant pursuit of keeping the kids busy. We sign them up for camps and lessons. We shell out cash for “organized play”. If they aren’t at camp, we take on the role of camp counselor and rack our brains and search the internet to try to come up with things for our kids to do.

We say, “It keeps them out of trouble.” While this may be true, a little trouble is exactly what kids are supposed to get into. A little trouble teaches important life skills, like how to lie. It shows them actions have consequences. Getting caught causing a little trouble when they are little, will make them think twice before causing big trouble when they are big.

shutterstock_274483970We say we have to keep them busy because otherwise they are bored. Guess what? Life is boring unless you know how to entertain yourself. Are you going to be signing them up for beer pong camp when they are 21? Boredom sparks curiosity. Boredom allows for wondering about things like, Where do butterflies go to the bathroom? How high can I throw this cellphone? Can I ride this dog all the way down the street?

leave your kids aloneWe say, “Without a schedule, they would be left to their own devices.” Without a schedule, these devices may lead to an amazing fort, an incredible finger painting or a new friendship. I hear Mozart’s mom always left him to his own devices, and no one calls her negligent.

leave your kids aloneWe say if we don’t give them things to do, they will just be in front of a screen. This one is easy — only if you let them.

leave your kids aloneThere are a few more weeks before school and schedules and stress take over. Let them play. Let them get dirty. Let them imagine. Let them climb. Let them create. Let them be bored, and let them figure it out. Play is good for the soul, it is good for the mind and it is even good for the wallet. Enjoy the rest of your summer!


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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.


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