Don’t keep them too busy, let their imagination flourish.
The long summer holidays are already upon us. It can be a magical time for kids, especially now that our hot and dry summers seem to have returned. But often it can be expensive too. I’ve been getting leaflets through the door about holiday clubs, activities and crash swimming courses for months. If I signed up to them all I could easily end up bankrupt. But I suspect my children would end up bankrupt too. For them, all this organised activity would lead to a sort of intellectual bankruptcy.
When talking to people about my books, one of the most common questions I am asked is ‘where do you get all your ideas from?’ Considering this enquiry carefully, I have put it down to two things. Firstly, I believe that storytelling is simply in my genes. My ancestors were the bards to the local lairds on the Isle of Arran and before that in Antrim, Northern Ireland. They were used to having to produce a decent ripping yarn on the spot and I suspect that the Laird would be pretty quick to complain if it wasn’t good enough. Secondly, I think it is down to my childhood. When I was growing up in the late 70s and early 80s there wasn’t so much disposable income about. Computers and hand held devices were practically non existent. Kid’s TV was only broadcast for about an hour and a half each day. Although the choice did expand as I got older.
The summer holidays for me meant a sprawling expanse of glorious free time. Imagination games were played in the back garden and in our little cul-de-sac. These games might continue for days or even weeks on end and everyone involved would chip in with some different part of the plot. They were all the more exciting because we’d invented all the characters ourselves. We knew that no one else in the world was playing the same game as us. It was unique.
We may feel we’re doing our offspring a favour by organising multiple activities to keep them occupied over the two month break. It might be a lifesaver at times, but make sure you leave room for their imaginations to grow. Creativity is a skill which might actually be more useful to them in their later lives than playing an instrument or a particular sport to a decent level. Balance is the key, of course, but make sure they have room to think too. They may moan about being bored at first. But within a few hours they will have begun to construct a fabulous world of their own creation and this skill will continue to bring them joy throughout their lives.