Do we ‘over schedule’ our children?

Do children have time to use their imagination?

I recently bumped into an old friend, whom I hadn’t seen in ages.  Naturally we got to talking about how time flies, where does it go, so on and so forth.  However it being a new year we immediately sought to remedy the situation by organising a meet up – or tried to!  Between the ballet, gymnastics, art clubs, music clubs, violin lessons, sports (various) and birthday parties it seems our children’s social lives had taken over ours!  So we resolved to keep in touch and to avail of the next best opportunity – circa 2022!
The following week an article in the Irish Examiner made me recall the (albeit) brief encounter with my friend and made me face the question – ‘are we over scheduling our children?’
The article was focussing on the 135th birthday of Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne. The series’ current author, Jane Riordan expressed concerns at the ‘over organisation’ of children’s lives.  “Milne’s message is that children play best and form the strongest friendships when they are just left to be and do nothing much”, explained Jane, “when they get a bit bored is when their imaginations run wild.”
I can never say I was a big fan of Winnie the Pooh.  I recall having to learn an extract of it for a school talent show (even then my talents were always limited to talking!!).  However the article did make me ask if I allow for the magic of imagination in my child’s life.  To explore the infinite boundaries of his mind and to create his own adventures, just like Christopher Robin and his beloved toys.  It was certainly food for thought.
Coincidentally the phrase ‘I’m bored’, has taken permanent residence in my son’s vocabulary and it seems many things are classified as ‘boring’, eating dinner, getting dressed, going to school, getting into the car, getting out of the car, using toilet paper (nice try!), tidying toys, the list grows. Normally it is heard on a weekend morning when I try to have some ‘down time ‘before that day’s activity schedule kicks in.   
Last weekend was no different and what was classified as ‘the most boring Sunday ever’ (his words not mine at 8.30am) my reaction was to think of what he could do to fill the 27 minutes he had before football – get the bikes out, some painting,  was it too early to make rice krispie buns?  Then I stop!
I cast a glance at the mini branch of Smyths’ Toys that once upon a time was my sitting room, and I give an impassive ‘Really’ in response. He shuffles off with a disgruntled sigh giving a hint of what lies ahead in the teenage years.
I return to my (now cold) breakfast and as I am draining my coffee, mentally recalling the location of his soccer kit, I overhear a commotion in the living room.
I look in to see Spiderman taking down a T-Rex and saving the day before driving off in his John Deere tractor.  Result – Imagination 1 – Boredom 0
As it turns out avoiding ‘boredom’ may not be something to be overly concerned about. It seems feeling ‘bored’ provides children with a golden opportunity to develop a mind-set to create their own entertainment.  Don’t get me wrong, scheduled activities are indeed important, encouraging discipline, team skills and have a much needed place in my child’s development, but I will remain mindful not to over commit him, cutting out the opportunity to create and explore on his own terms.
After all boredom is a factor of life and to quote Winnie the Pooh himself!  ‘Life is a journey to be experienced and not a problem to be solved’. 
Written by Alma Jordan. Alma is the founder of AgriKids. Check out her website here at www.agrikids.ieor like her on facebookand follow her twitter @agrikid
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