It can be a lonely summer for children in neighborhoods these days.
In our neighborhood, I see children at the pool but usually after 3 or 4. Some parents are working all summer, and I totally understand. But even with the parents who are not working, the children are often in summer camps that cost hundreds of dollars, probably a thousand dollars, by the end of the summer.
It is sort of a vicious cycle. Children who are staying home in the summer have no friends to play with; no one is outside; no one is at a neighborhood pool until later and then the parents probably feel as if they must put their child in something so the children will have something to do. And the cycle keeps going round and round.
Summer has somehow become this merry-go-round of more and trying to fit in more before school starts again. If we, as parents, don’t start reclaiming some of the slowness of our children’s childhoods, I think upcoming generations will have an even faster and more hurried life.
What strikes me most is the loss of neighborhood play in mixed-age groups( without parents hovering). In a neighborhood group, or even in groups of kids on the farm, children figure out the play, the rules, and how one wins. One stomps off and gets mad and comes back – learning emotional regulation. One is totally irritated with a commanding older child in the group, but there is a group to buffer this, and children learn how to get along with those who are different than themselves – without an adult telling them how to do it.
The children playing in the neighborhood get to develop decision-making skills. They get to develop their bodies as they bike all over, swim all day, and generally avoid going inside. They get off of any screens and they get off their bottoms.
So, this summer, even if camps are on your list for your children, I am begging you to consider getting the children in your neighborhood outside. If it takes a parent to get the ball rolling at this point because it seems kind of foreign, then so be it. Invite everyone to bring a bike, a scooter, a water gun – and then back off. Let the children play. Maybe something wonderful will happen.