When I was growing up, we really didn’t do much. My mom was a stay at home mom and that’s where we spent most of our time – home. We didn’t go to play groups or any fancy programs and we certainly didn’t do any type of structured activities like gymnastics or soccer – and honestly, I’m glad we didn’t.
There are obviously a lot of benefits to getting your kids participating and involved at an early age. There’s the socialization piece and certainly the experience, but there’s also value and essential development that happens within the open time, within the free time and within the downtime.
There’s a generous amount of space that’s created when things are unstructured. It holds opportunities for exploration and play. It fosters creativity and imagination, but most importantly, it allows your child to be with themselves – it allows them to get to know themselves.
Young kids have this incredible ability to tap into the deepest parts of their soul – it’s why imagination is so accessible for them. They are wizards at self-entertainment – when given the chance – and in some ways it’s like a muscle that needs to be flexed, so it can become bigger, and better, and stronger.
For my brother and I, the word ‘bored’ wasn’t really even in our vocabulary – even when we got older – because it never really existed to begin with. Whenever there was less going on, we would just dive more into ourselves, which was a nice place to be and still is. I think having that time, made it that way.
Yes, some days I catch myself feeling guilty for not ‘doing’ more but I always try to remind myself that meaningful moments happen and are often discovered in these unstructured spaces. Significant things that might not otherwise surface or be expressed – because of agendas and influences – seem to come to light.
So next time you find yourself making funny noises with your mouth, luring a caterpillar, or pretending to be a grocery store cashier, make sure you honour these moments. Count them as a win. Give them a check mark. Because although the ‘doing’ part of the day might not seem quite as grand, the ‘nothing’ part is arguably just as worthwhile, if not more.