Summer will be here in just a few short weeks. I’m excited because that means playing tennis with my boys and the summer sports season is just around the corner. But I also want to make sure my kids have free time to just play and let their imaginations run wild – after tennis camp and weekly clinics, of course.
As a single father of two teenagers, I admit it’s easy to overlook the importance of unstructured outdoor play, even though reminding parents to make time for free play is something I’m focused on as a creative director at Playworld Systems. But if you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk, right?
So now that my boys will be out of school soon, I am recommitting myself to encouraging them to free up some time just to go outside and play.
What exactly does “going outside to play” mean for teenaged guys?
Of course, organized outdoor sports are fun for teenagers. For my sons, tennis is one of the highlights of their spring and summer. But what if we commit ourselves to helping our kids discover it isn’t all about the competition this summer. The who wins. Has the highest score. The biggest trophy. Sometimes just having fun is the trophy.
I’m not saying we need to take away tennis or soccer camp from your kids this summer. We aren’t at my house. What I am saying is that they can do both. Let’s all try to supplement those scheduled activities with some unstructured time for kids to just be kids.
Fight the urge to say, “Stop messing around so we can finish the game,” when the 10 minute sword fight with croquet mallets breaks out in the middle of a game, which you are actually winning for a change.
Think back to your own childhood – summer afternoons spent playing tag and keep-away, swimming and skipping rocks. Evenings spent with a jar in hand trying to catch lightning bugs. It’s important for us to remember that outdoor play is always important and something we’re never too old to enjoy.
How will you and your family unwind this summer? Tell us about your free play plans!