As I got ready to get my kids from the bus stop today, I started to think of what we might do this afternoon. With nothing planned, I figured we’d do something fun. We have some games we haven’t played yet, a couple of science kits, some engineering activities, a few unopened LEGO sets, and plenty of untouched craft supplies. The kids requested a video game and we’ve even got some of those we haven’t tried. Lots of choices. In fact, as I considered all of the options, I started to feel a bit guilty. Obviously, I’m not spending enough time with my kids if we’re never getting to any of these activities.
We got home, went through the school stuff, got snacks, and then… nothing. They’ve been home for over an hour and I haven’t done a single thing with them. It probably looks like I’m an awful parent, right? But the truth is that my kids are BUSY. Before I had the chance to entice them with any of my great ideas, they had opened the dress-up bin, chosen outfits, gathered stuffed stuffed animals, and squirreled themselves off somewhere. They are playing a game with no name (I asked), but that involves kings and queens. They are perfectly happy creating their pretend universe. They do not need me to intervene.
This is the norm around here, actually. We are drowning in toys, but it doesn’t matter. My kids are just creative, self-entertaining people. Sure, they will happily play for hours on the iPad or with a video game, but they are just as able and eager to imagine, create, dream, and explore. Sometimes they plan an imaginary vacation to somewhere fun (usually Disney World). Sometimes they create a school room. There could be a pony kingdom, a colorful new galaxy, or a winding path of dominoes. Once they made puppets and then set out to create a puppet theater. Another time, they sat with a guitar, coming up with their own songs (in fact, as I write this, the guitars have just come out). Could be a dance show. You never quite know what you’re going to get, but they are never, ever bored. Never. No, really.
It’s on days like this, I feel like we’ve done something right. We’ve provided just enough structure and activity that they have inspiration for their imaginative play, while giving them space and time to retain their creativity. They haven’t been “ruined” by video games and apps. Sure, they may not actually play instruments, speak a second language, or compete in multiple sports teams. But they are experts at playing, which is exactly what they should be at this age. I know that this probably won’t last forever, but for right now, it’s pretty amazing to watch.
* The picture is what was going on while I was writing this post. Crazy kids!