When he was small, my youngest son had a habit of filling his pockets with treasures he encountered in his daily adventures. I didn't always understand the value he saw in his chosen objects -- really, how many rocks and sticks could one boy keep? In his eyes, though, each one was beautiful and important. Life is just like that on a larger scale, isn't it? We gather up the precious bits of our experiences and save them all to learn from and enjoy later. Perhaps you'll find a little something here that you'd like to keep in your own pockets. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Three cheers for free time

It was very quiet around our house for a few hours this morning, and if you know anything about our family (which includes one boy who thinks getting up-and-at'em before 6am every morning is a good life philosophy, and two boys who talk non-stop from the moment their feet hit the ground), then you'll know that in our world, this is a strange phenomenon for a weekend morning. Thankfully the boys have never really been the type where a long period of quiet means that they're up to something devious! When I went down to the basement rec room to see what they were doing, I was treated to the sight of the two of them playing happily together, building an elaborate race car track system out of miscellaneous supplies they had gathered from their toy storage boxes. The boys were fiercely proud of what they had accomplished all on their own, and begged me to stay awhile to watch a demonstration of cars zooming every which way, assisted by motors and elastic-powered launchers. There the three of us sat, in our pjs, cheering enthusiastically for the cars that made it through the challenging run safely, and revelling in the boys' wonderful creativity.

The boys show off their race track masterpiece with pride. Notice Will's goggles and work gloves; apparently this kind of building project is serious work!

There is something glorious about a leisurely weekend morning where kids are free to just play using their imaginations as their guide, without having to rush off to go anywhere else. Sadly, I think this kind of pleasure is becoming rarer for families today. It seems many parents feel a desire or a pressure to sign their children up for every kind of activity possible, believing that they shouldn't miss out on any available opportunity. I am all for extra-curricular activities -- our boys participate in them, too -- but we've made a conscious choice not to fill up all of their free time with structured lessons, sports, and clubs, because we want them to have the chance to find their own way, too. As a family, we cherish having hours set aside for nothing in particular, so that there can be impromptu adventures and experiences that go off on unexpected tangents. I believe there are incredibly valuable lessons to be learned when children are given ample opportunities to rely on themselves for discovery and fun.

In building their race car world this morning, Noah and Will thought, planned, designed, built, experimented, problem-solved, discussed, shared, laughed, and felt good about themselves, all without anyone telling them how. While I am glad for the many excellent lessons and skills they will learn at school and in their extra-curricular activities over the years, in my eyes, what they teach themselves through play in their free time will be every bit as important to them in life. As the boys grow up, I plan to guard healthy amounts of that time for them like the treasure that it is; I look forward to seeing both the fascinating projects they come up with next and the creative, clever, self-confident young men I feel certain they will become.

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