FREE RANGE

BY NOW THE SCHOOL HOL­I­DAY CABIN FEVER HAS PROB­A­BLY KICKED IN, BUT EV­ERY KID SHOULD HAVE THE LUX­URY OF BE­ING BORED

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Reckon - WORDS// RACHAEL JANSEN

My kids have noth­ing to do. Aren’t they lucky? I refuse to en­ter­tain them in the school hol­i­days. I don’t sched­ule them into mul­ti­ple ac­tiv­i­ties and I don’t make plans to take them here, there and ev­ery­where in be­tween. The days are – like in a Calvin and Hobbes car­toon – wide open and, in this day and age of struc­ture and sched­ule in which kids barely have time to sit still let alone play, I think it’s a gift to give them this free­dom.

Other than a few hours of soc­cer train­ing at a hol­i­day camp for one of them, the kids have blank di­aries for the hol­i­days. There are no ac­tiv­i­ties, no trips away and, most im­por­tantly, no sched­ule.

They know I’ll be at the desk work­ing for much of the time they’re off and they’re used to it. They’re used to go­ing back to school with “noth­ing” to re­port.

They have been given the gift of free­dom and self-re­liance dur­ing the hol­i­days.

Their sched­ules dur­ing school term are ridicu­lously full, which is an is­sue that dis­tresses me. At 11 and nine, they al­ready have no time to play in the af­ter­noons and haven’t had for at least the past two years. I don’t even let them do many ac­tiv­i­ties and they’re still over-sched­uled with home­work.

So, come the school hol­i­days, the shack­les are off. The ex­pec­ta­tions are off and they have all day to pretty much do as they please, pro­vided it doesn’t in­volve a screen. Bike rid­ing and head­ing to the park.

Board games and the good old-fash­ioned sib­ling punch-ups that in­evitably sig­nal the end of those games. Bak­ing and cre­at­ing in the kitchen. Trips to the li­brary to stock up on a pile of books and then spend­ing the af­ter­noon in a cosy spot work­ing your way through them. Vis­its to Nan’s place and trips to the beach to col­lect shells. Eat­ing when you’re hun­gry and not when a bell rings to sched­ule it in.

Child­hood is so short for kids these days and I’m not sure any­one other than par­ents is notic­ing. The work­load and ex­pec­ta­tions placed on kids be­fore they reach even half­way through pri­mary school is ex­tra­or­di­nary and their days are of­ten as long or even longer than an adult work­ing a full-time job. As well-mean­ing par­ents who want only the best for our kids, it’s tempt­ing to over-sched­ule their time.

Op­por­tu­ni­ties abound in our so­ci­ety for kids to try any­thing and ev­ery­thing.

But a lit­tle bore­dom and a lot of free­dom can be the best thing we can give to them.

Take a ball, find a stick, hang out in the street talk­ing to the neigh­bours, feel the sun on your face and the salt wa­ter on your skin.

It makes me sound old, but I am more than en­vi­ous of the fact my kids are be­ing forced to be a lit­tle bit bored!

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