My daughter could have had a very entertaining winter break. Judging from all of the three-day camp and weekend workshop offers we got, plenty of people must be filling their children’s vacations with tons of educational activities and experiences. There was the gymnastics week-long camp. The dance studio had super-intensive programs. The area youth theater offered mini-classes. Let’s not even get started with the zoo, the children’s science museum and multiple other local kids’ attractions. Everywhere I turned, there were exciting things for her to get involved in.
Instead, my little girl spent the time she wasn’t ripping open presents or visiting family laying around our house, playing with new toys, and even watching a little television.
She was lazy. She even got a little bored from time to time. And call me crazy, but that’s what I’ve always assumed winter and spring vacation were supposed to be about. They’re breaks from spending every weekday doing a planned, educational activity. Why would I want to sign my daughter up for a bunch of classes and extra-curriculars during the one time of year that she gets to relax?
I realize that a big reason these camps and classes have grown in popularity is that parents are looking for childcare. It’s not easy to take a couple weeks off of work because your little one in home from school. Parents just need someone to watch the kids when their normal schedule is thrown off. And honestly, camp for an activity your child likes seems better than a daycare drop-off center that your child isn’t terribly familiar with. It makes sense why these programs have grown so much.
At the same time, I think our kids are missing something when they head out for eight hours of kid-friendly science experiments or swimming and kickball at the local YMCA. I think they’re missing the “break” part of winter break. They’re missing the relaxation that comes with laying around the house for a day or two, playing with new toys and maybe taking a trip out into the snow with a sled.
It’s not an option for every parent, but instead of shelling out for camps and classes, my family, friends and I are coming together to give kids a little down time. Each parent takes a day or two off work, whatever they can handle. The kids travel from house to house, with one parent whose only job is to cook a little lunch and keep the peace. No planned activities. No programmed entertainment. Just a house to relax in for kids who need to take some deep breaths.
I know that some parents don’t have that choice, but I’m really thankful that my daughter gets a chance to calm down over vacation. I’m completely fine with hearing her whine that she’s bored every once in a while. The extra-curriculars and planned activities can wait until later. We’ll handle those on weeknights, when life gets back into a routine. Winter break isn’t made for productivity.