Day 5: A Creek = Nature’s Cardboard Box

Today, the kids . . .

Scrambled over rocks

Slid down rocks

Threw rocks

Tripped over rocks

Cut themselves on rocks






Ate grapes

Threw grapes

Argued about grapes

Fed grapes to the fish

Pretended they were explorers

Pretended they were a family (?!)

Pretended they were asleep

Pretended they were stranded on an island with no grown-ups

Peed in the river.


And probably lots, lots more things I did not notice, since I was not overseeing, directing, choreographing, or orchestrating their play. I simply sat way on the sidelines and ignored them, present only because Henry does not yet swim, but otherwise completely absent from their fun.

Many of us bemoan the fact that our kids “just don’t go outside and play anymore.” And sure, there are some reasons for that. Some of us live in places where outside time is tricky—fences, crime, big dogs, neighbors who frown upon shrieking. But a lot of us live in pretty great neighborhoods. On streets and cul-de-sacs where children could still roam free and dig for worms and play with sticks and create mini-fiefdoms and only come inside when they needed the toilet or sandwiches.

Our kids are growing up.  What are we waiting for?

Let’s let them play.

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A Case for Summer Screen Time

It’s summer vacation. Woo-hoo!

But now what?

If you are anything like our family, you awoke this morning and lounged – TV, pancakes, jammies ‘til noon. It was probably spectacular.

But now it is 1:15 pm and all the kids want to do is squabble and eat ice cream and melt their brains with the iPad. For today, we just might do that. But what about the rest of the summer? With sloth and gluttony rule the days? We wait all school year to get our kiddos back, but how do we make the most of June, July, and whatever time we are allotted in August? How do we do summer right?

I read a compelling essay last year about offering children unlimited screen time. I confess I only clicked on it to see what kind of nut-job of a parent made that decision. But the reasoning was pretty great. One mom offered her kids unlimited electronics after they completed several previously agreed-upon tasks—the usual things: reading, cleaning, and something active or creative. Her theory was that kids tend to stick with what they start with. Give them a hot glue gun at 9:30 am and chances are they’ll still be crafting when it’s time for lunch. Insist that they read for an hour and they’ll probably keep a nose in a book for two.

I was doubtful, but the kids and I brainstormed our own list and gave it a try. We decided that they could have as much television and iPad time only after:

  1. Reading
  2. Exercise
  3. Something Creative
  4. A Chore

Lots of my ideas die before I ever fully implement them—the one about not washing any clothes until the prior load is folded and put away, the one about no food in the car. But this one, the one where we made a list and ordered our summer really, really worked. Reading daily turned into more trips to the library for reinforcement books, and sunbathing sessions in the backyard with the Junie B. Jones series. Exercise meant walking the dog, biking to the beach, and neighborhood games of sharks and minnows. Creativity flowed freely every single day. The kids wrote books and made birthday cards, and Lizzie taught herself to draw a horse rearing up in a field. Katie composed music, made a radio, played the piano, and distributed homemade donuts to all her friends. In fact, the kitchen became a second playground. We made our own pizza and ice cream, lemon bread, apple sauce, strawberry jam, caramel, and crepes. We rolled our own sushi and experimented with boba tea. And even the chores got done. The kids folded clothes, made their beds, and scrubbed the bathroom with far few complaints than ever before.

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Now they were still my kids. Plenty of days they groused about the list. They still fought over the iPad and who was in charge of the remote. But they also settled into the routine. Our list provided structure – but not too much – and freedom – but not too much. Some days, we breezed through the list and watched too many episodes of Supergirl. Other days, a lot of days, we never got to any screen time at all. We rode our bikes to the pool for exercise and stayed all day. We baked and shared the results. We summered.

And this morning, over pancakes, we made a new list to try it all over again.

Join us. We would love to hear your results.

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