February 22, 2011

Squelch Apathy by “Doing Nothing”

Toddlers and preschoolers are the antithesis of apathy. In fact, they often seem to move all day, slowing down only to re-fuel with quick snacks and stopping to sleep only when overcome by exhaustion. Their constant motion seems random, but, actually, play is their “work” - the method by which God has designed young children to acquire knowledge and skill - and it’s a lot more purposeful than it would appear at first glance.

Older children aren’t wired differently. However, a lot of kids lose that excitement well before they reach double-digits, plummeting into a sea of boredom and indifference. Many factors – including the very structure of our institutionalized school system – contribute to the tragedy, making it too big a problem to fully address in one short article. But we can think about one topic – how we structure kids’ freetime – and consider how changes there would make a difference.

More to the point, we need to purposely stop structuring all of their freetime.

It’s bad enough that elementary-aged children are constrained to bookwork for most of their seven-hour school days, freed up only for a daily 30-minute lunch period and one 10- to 15-minute recess, and that even the youngest kids have extensive homework to fill more of their time. But add to that the fact that we parents feel the need to program most of their remaining waking hours with sports and clubs, and it’s a truly sorry state of affairs.

We think we’re providing important enrichment to our kids by involving them in outside activities – and we are, to a point. After all, extracurriculars allow kids to exercise the multiple intelligence strengths that often sit fallow in typical school activities and also enable them to explore areas of interest of which they’d otherwise be unaware. However, if our kids are over-programmed – if their lives are crammed with structure from dawn till dusk – they won’t be able to develop the type of creativity and imagination that births passion and that can only come from having freetime. Real freetime.

That idea sometimes scares us. After all, won’t they get into trouble? But I’m not talking about a lack of supervision. I’m simply advocating that we not fill every moment of their lives with planned activities. We need to gift our kids with time to “do nothing” – time to play, time to freely explore the world around them, time to figure out how their own internal clocks tick, time to discover from within the passions God has placed in their hearts.

If they find that, they’ll never become apathetic.

Photo Credit: gaspi *yg 


1 comment:

Kimberly said...

Yes, So many children don't even know how to play anymore. I love seeing the imagination of my children at work as they play. We live in the country so frequently they are running and exploring outdoors. I'm so thankful they can do this.

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