Last summer I wrote about my daughter's experience with play-based vs. activity based summer camp/childcare. She roundly rejected the themed camps that I signed her up for for two weeks (which were also more logistically difficult and expensive for me) in favor of going to her usual childcare facility, which is close to our home and both kid-driven and play-based. This summer she has already made it clear to me that she wants no other camps, just to go to the local place every day. Far be it from me to argue.
She has also asked to stop all other activities (except maybe piano, she's on the fence there), at least during the week, so that she can fully dedicate herself to playing. Last summer there were a number of times when I arrived to pick her up for karate, only to find her in the middle of planning a wedding or setting up a restaurant. She is preemptively telling me that these interruptions are not going to be tolerated.
When I think of summer vacations when I was a kid, all I did was play or read all day (that's how I remember it, anyway). I remember endless games of Monopoly with my best friend, Carol; playing with Barbies; reading up in a tree; and riding my bike around the neighborhood. I remember swimming. Oh, there was an occasional day camp or swim lesson, and sometimes Carol's mom (who had no younger kids to watch) took us on outings. My family went on vacations here and there, and I must have spent time watching my siblings. But mostly, as I remember it now, summers were about free play.
I can't give that free range summer experience to my daughter. There are no kids her age on our street. I have to be able to work (though I am lucky enough to work from home). I don't want want her on her tablet all day (or to fight with her about time on said tablet all day). She needs to go somewhere. Our childcare place allows me to give her the closest thing I can to that "play all day" summer. It's what she wants, and that is what I plan to do. I feel very fortunate to have this as an option. Of course I recognize that this is not the solution that would work for all kids and families.
I'm sharing this not because I think you all need to know where my child will be over the summer. But I think it's telling that my daughter, who just turned eight, is expressing this preference. She has a bunch of activities that ebb and flow over the course of the school year, and although she enjoys them, she is now, in April, tired. She's asking for a rest. She's asking to do crafts and play imagination-based games with other kids all day. Isn't she entitled to that?
It's so, so easy to over-schedule our kids. It's great that they have options, and I know that sports and other activities are good for them and enrich them in various ways. But I wonder how many kids are out there like my daughter who just want a break. Who just want to play. I hope with all my heart that the ones who need that will get it. Thanks for listening.