Lessons From a Pine Cone (and, okay, a blog)

My kids have never gone to overnight/sleepaway camp, but I really like this blog  from a camp out west. The camp director (or someone!) sent it to me thinking the “Top 10 Things I’ve Learned as a Summer Camp Professional that Make Me a Better Parent” entry would be right up my alley. It is. I particularly like part of lesson 8, about how to resolve conflicts:

A great technique for getting a kid to talk is to MOVE. Children, especially boys, can have a hard time expressing their feelings if they feel like an adult is standing there, waiting for an answer, and “pressuring” them to say something. If you can remove the child from the situation and go for a walk (ideally outdoors), the questions you ask may elicit more than the standard, “I dunno” answers.

Great advice. But anyway, then I scrolled down to the post beneath that one, which turned out to be all about how a bunch of 5th graders came up with – sit down! – their own game. The game has something to do with hitting pine cones into a hole and each pine cone is worth so many points and you get so many tries to hit them, and on and on. But the blogger’s point (and now mine) is that it is so lovely when kids invent their own games. And so rare that it needs to be celebrated.

Kids need free time or they can’t invent their own games, rules, worlds. That kind of inventing is as valuable a childhood activity as any I can think of.

My boys certainly have some after school activities, of course. I’m an American! But once I started researching “free play” for my book, I let them drop out of some, too. Goodbye piano! Goodbye electric guitar!

I still feel a little guilty (sometimes more than a little) about that. But aside from the personal joy of no longer having to nag them about practicing, it just became obvious that there is something just as enriching as extra class time and that is… extra free time. Learning to be resourceful without a teacher, parent or coach telling you what to do next.

So here’s to the weekend ahead of us all. May it be filled with nice things – in part by being not filled with too, too much.   — Lenore