But even with so many opportunities, we will all (hopefully) find ourselves with some downtime this summer. Do we let our kids be or do we also fill this time with pre-planned crafts/activities/games?
As a parent, I love watching our kids spontaneously start playing together during this free time. Maybe one starts running around the living room and the other starts chasing them. Or one starts dumping sand into a big bin of water and the other grabs a shovel to join in.
Of course these spontaneous games do require some effort on my part. To run around and chase each other for a long time, it's best if the floor is clear of obstacles that could easily trip a toddler. In order to dump sand together, my kids need a bin of sand, a bin of water, shovels, and a space that can get very wet and very messy.
I just finished reading The Importance of Being Little. It reminded me that one of the best things I can do for our kids this summer is put them in environments that let them play, allow them to interact with others, and foster meaningful conversations.
Our son is quite talkative, which helps remind me about all the learning that can happen while he is playing. A race around the living room can bring up questions about friction or an experiment about whether it's faster to run in socks, shoes or barefoot. And dumping sand in water can lead to density experiments or conversations about why some things float and some sink.
Our kids are currently curious about bugs/insects, so, following our son's lead, we've spent the last few weeks looking for ants outside, hiking with friends and finding pillbugs, checking out the insect zoo at the San Francisco Zoo, checking out insect books at the library, watching a documentary about insects, etc. I'm excited to see what other topics will grab our kids interest this summer.