Summer Parenting All Year Long
Why not let the essence of summer stay a part of your everyday living?
There is something so incredibly precious about summer time fun. I have loved watching my young children explore nature, go through the day without any agenda for where we have to be, and to generally thrive with the environment that simply lets them be free-spirited and unscheduled.
In recent years, a movement called "slow parenting" has developed that suggests there are benefits to keeping a slower schedule throughout the year. "Slow parenting cherishes quality over quantity, being in the moment, and making meaningful connections with your family. " In a world filled with "busy" lives, slow parenting suggests taking a slower approach to daily and weekly planning so you can save room for your family to connect. Perhaps enroll your child in only one extracurricular activity, so you aren't rushed from one event to the next, and no mater how many activities your child participates in, find ways to connect in a meaningful way each day. Leave space for your family to be able to eat dinner together, go to the park for a half hour after dinner, or simply be in your home together without anything planned.
Prioritize unstructured time for your child and preserve it as valuable. Unstructured time is especially important to children under five. "In early development, kids are still wiring. They need to have moments of doing and moments of being for integration to happen,” says Contey. “If they don’t take space for integration, that leads to meltdowns and overtiredness. Kids then think they’re not good at school or a certain sport, when that’s not the fact but the byproduct of being overdone.” (The Benefits of Slow Parenting)
How to be a slow parent
With my 3 1/2 year old and 1 1/2 year old, I'm looking for ways to allow my child chunks of the day/week, where we have nothing planned and I focus on giving them an opportunity for play without feeling like I need to entertain them. I think this is the key to slow parenting. It's about being with our children, and yet not feeling we have to entertain them the way a cartoon or bounce-house would. Entertainment can often rob our children of the opportunity to be creative, imaginative and ingenious. Nancy H. Blakey says, “Preempt the time spent on television and organized activities and have them spend it instead on claiming their imaginations. For in the end, that is all we
have. If a thing cannot be imagined first -- a cake, a relationship, a cure for AIDS-- it cannot be." (Nancy is a parent educator and the author of Recipes for Invention, 101 Alternatives to Television, Lotions Potions and Slime, Boredom Busters, and Go Outside! that promote creativity in kids). Here are 115 ideas of screen-free ways for children to be enriched without technology or a formal activity.
With the start of Fall, our preschool started up again after a summer break and our weekly schedule had a bit more planned than we had during the summer. I noticed my son was having more tantrums and getting frustrated with me. In an effort to try some “slow parenting,” when we got home from pre-school I didn’t force a certain activity or prepare anything in order to be sure my kids would be entertained. Instead, I put on some classical music, and focused on following my child (a Montessori core principle). I asked what he might like to do together. He chose reading a story about an enormous carrot. After we read the book he asked if we could eat some enormous carrots. So we enjoyed a snack together. I had a paint set out and asked if he wanted to paint an enormous carrot. With eyes wide open, he exclaimed “yes!” We decided to make it orange by blending red and yellow paint. Presto! Amazing learning time together without any lesson planning. He learned a new vocabulary word, explored blending colors, and enjoyed a healthy snack. Best of all, he was so incredibly engaged the entire time, and we got to have a beautiful time of richly connecting with one another.
Learn more ways to meet the needs of your developing child through Age of Montessori's Child Development 6-week Online Course or watch our Webinar replay on "Help to Life: Why every parent and caregiver needs to understand the stages of Development".