Summer Freedom

Hanging-out time is a must for kids. It’s time to relax, dream and explore. It’s summertime!

Let your kids savor the summer with plenty of time to just be. Carefree days fuel their imaginations and allow them to discover the world–and themselves.

Summertime adventure doesn’t have to be a planned out event. Think of your fondest memories, a lot of them are probably along the lines of playing with the hose or playing in the dirt. Let your kids tap into their creative sides as they soar through the house with the “help” of makeshift capes. Give them space to take charge as they serve up “tea” in tiny cups on the patio. “Self-generated activities help kids feel empowered and develop personal interests,” says Dr. Patti Zomber, a Los Angeles psychologist for children and families. “Throughout our adult lives, we need to function without people telling us what to do. So when kids entertain themselves, they’re developing an important lifelong skill.”

Truly embrace the lazy days of summer…and watch your children blossom.

The stage-by-stage lessons of free play
They’re not wasting time, Mom and Dad–they’re learning! Here’s how.

Loading up on experience (ages 2-5)
“Vroom…vroom…V-R-O-O-M!” Michael loads and unloads dump trucks in the sandbox with all the horsepower a 4-year-old can muster. Through hands-on, tactile play, he’s experiencing how the world around him works. Kids this age can be absorbed in imaginary pursuits for hours. Make-believe play with vehicles, action figures, stuffed animals, and building blocks stokes their creativity and develops confidence as they create–and control–their worlds.

Learning by comparing (ages 6-8)
Hannah, age 8, and her friends love to organize impromptu contests. Who can go farthest hand-over-hand on the monkey bars? Who can jump rope the fastest? Kids at this age naturally compete and compare themselves to one another. Open-ended, outdoor play allows them to create their own games and write their own rules–or toss out rules altogether and enjoy fun and non-goal-oriented playtime.

Getting in the groove (ages 9-12)
Eleven-year-old Daniel is into music and–like many kids his age–spends ample time with his friends. Pitching a tent in the backyard with the neighborhood gang or jamming in the basement with a newly formed band allows older kids to exercise a little independence while learning to negotiate and problem-solve together. Parents need to be supportive of this kids-only time, allowing them to make decisions (“The guys and I want pizza tonight”), develop their own personal style (“I like these T-shirts”), and learn from the consequences of their own mistakes (“I think I left my CD player at the pool”).