Kids Have Accomplished So Much During This Slow, Lazy Summer

When there's nothing else to do, children get creative.

Fort Knox, built by children
One of my kids' summer projects.

K Martinko 

It's been nearly two months since I wrote a post called, "Welcome to Your Kid's First Summer of Total Freedom." It was early July, and I wanted to get parents thinking about how summer 2020 need not be a total write-off, that despite its lack of organized activities and places to go, it could hold a wealth of possibilities for children.

Fast forward to early September, and we're now able to look back and see whether or not the summer of 2020 lived up to those expectations. From a personal perspective, the answer is a resounding yes. My children made the best of this quiet summer by filling their days with bike rides, cooking projects, and Nerf battles, as well as practicing scooter tricks at the skate park and teaching themselves how to ride a skimboard at the beach.

While not everyone may share my sense of satisfaction at the end of the summer, I am not alone in thinking there have been some real benefits to it. An utterly delightful article in the Washington Post describes the many impressive things that children across the United States have accomplished in recent months, thanks to all their new free time. 

One 13-year-old boy named Will helped his mother care for his grandfather post-surgery, and ended up staying for an additional week on his own, as his grandpa's primary caregiver; he cooked meals, helped him to shave, and did whatever tasks were needed. As Will's mother told the Post afterward, 

"I couldn’t believe the transformation; it was like a curtain lifted and he’d gone from a boy to a man. He really stepped up in a way that I can’t imagine he’d been able to any other summer."

Other children learned how to entertain themselves independently, building items such as homemade fishing rods out of sticks and a boat out of a repurposed wagon. They constructed cardboard box forts for quiet reading nooks, learned basic car maintenance skills, took responsibility for newly adopted pets, and used the toys they already owned to start small business projects.

Seven-year-old Leo Perry of Pasadena, California, channeled his love for dancing into a sidewalk fundraising campaign for Black Lives Matter. Entirely his own idea (his mom said she just looked out the window one day and saw him dancing his heart out), Perry had already raised over $18,500 by early August and had been dancing for 54 days straight. (Oh, and his Instagram page is adorable.)

Parent Christina Busso told the Post, "I hope [my kids] remember this as the summer where they took responsibility for their own learning, where they chose their own path and sought out ways of learning new things." Indeed, the combination of unscheduled time and parents busy with working from home has been a perfect recipe for creativity. All summer long, my default response to my children's complaints about boredom has been, "I can't wait to see what you come up with," to which they groan, but inevitably shuffle off to do something fun.

I hope so much that parents will remember this summer in years to come, that they'll resist the urge to over-schedule their children's lives and find ways to continue giving them this rare yet beneficial freedom to explore, learn, and create. Free-range parenting advocate Lenore Skenazy describes children as seeds, with free time being "the water they need to grow." Let's not stop watering those seeds, just because the world is slowly returning to normal.