Give Kids the Gift of Free Time

Kid flying kite

By Steve Holzmeyer, Courier & Press, Dec. 1, 2015 –

I enjoy listening to an old song by Billy Dean called “Billy the Kid.” It’s a wistful look back at Billy’s childhood, roaming the neighborhood dressed as a cowboy looking for “bad guys.”

One of my favorite lines from the song is, “Being late for supper was my only fear.” The song paints a picture of a carefree and happy youngster.

A large portion of my boyhood summers were spent exploring the small towns of Tell City, Ft. Branch and Haubstadt. Like Billy, my imagination would soar as I wandered around searching for adventure. Adult worries and stresses were far away.

I was involved in a few organized activities, but for the most part, I was free to create my own little world. As a result of this freedom I developed a vivid imagination. Having the freedom to daydream was a valuable gift. Even as an adult, I am still able to dream about possibilities or lose myself inside the covers of a good book.

These days life is hectic and childhood fears are more serious than Billy’s fear of being late for supper. A key source of these increased anxieties has given birth to the term “Superkid.” Rae Pica writes, “In short, a Superkid is a child pressured by parents and by society in general to do too much too soon.”

In an article called “Overscheduled Kids,” Pica quotes Johann Christoph Arnold: “The pressure to excel is undermining childhood as never before. Why are we so keen to mold children into successful adults, instead of treasuring their genuineness and carefree innocence?”

Parents don’t entirely deserve the blame for this. Peer pressure often drives a child to desire this frenzy of activity. They push themselves, not wanting to be left out or left behind. The result is that many children today are too busy and simply lack the time to “just be kids.”

Now it is certainly true that organized activities such as sports can have a positive impact on children. Kids learn to work with others, develop communication skills, and are taught how to succeed or fail graciously.

There are certainly many benefits from getting your child involved — up to a point. But when this involvement begins to produce negative effects such as excessive anxiety or trouble performing in school, it may be time to pull back a bit.

Author Chuck Swindoll offers a well-known verse in discussing this issue: “There is an appointed time for everything.” This includes a time for shouldering worries and responsibilities that should be postponed until adulthood arrives. Chuck suggests that we ease the pace of our children’s lives and allow them to grow up more slowly and carefully.

Great achievements often come from the ability to imagine or dream about what could be. That takes more freedom than today’s “Superkids” have available. How about some time to just do nothing?

As we enter the Christmas season, I encourage parents to consider giving your child the gift of time — precious free time — along with some encouragement to daydream a bit. It may greatly benefit their future.