Where is the time for the kids to be bored and tap into their inner creativity? Are the kids able to occupy themselves, even when there is no set schedule for them, asks Suveera, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
I glance at my son’s expectant eyes staring at me. This is the third parent I have called, trying to fix and impromptu ‘play date’ (Ah! The audacity). No one is free. One six year old is learning coding, and the other two are at Judo and piano lessons. After checking and rechecking of the smartphones, I have been assigned a slot for the next week after school from 4pm to 6pm. Guess my son will have to wait.
I remember my childhood when we could just go to the park and would find children to play with. Back then, thankfully playtimes did not have to be meticulously scheduled. When we could just knock on a friend’s door and play for hours and return home happy and even fed. Yes, times have changed, but certainly, children have not. They still are very much the same, and even now have the same needs. Unfortunately now we give them ‘busy’ like a badge of honour. They are like mini adults, shuttling between school and extra-curricular activities, from morning to night, all days of the week.
Where is the time for the kids to be bored and tap into their inner creativity? Are the kids able to occupy themselves, even when there is no set schedule for them?
It is believed that the most sought-after quality for the jobs in the future, will be creativity. The ability to think innovatively for problem solving. Are our kids equipped? I don’t see that happening with the over structured and over organised lives that we are building for them. With barely enough time to breathe, we are depriving them of the opportunity to channelise their creativity, and enjoy their own company.
My friend who is a teacher often worries about how tired some children are, even at the start of the day. With a full day at school, followed by one activity after another, by the time they get home, there is only enough time to eat and sleep with homework squeezed in. Especially on Fridays, with a whole week behind them, they are exhausted and irritable. Unable to concentrate well.
Are we somewhere transferring responsibility? Instead of painting the sunset with our children ourselves, we send them to a painting class. We could go and play badminton with our 6-year-old, but instead, we hire an instructor to do it for us. I seriously wonder what a 2-year-old gets out of a soccer class that he couldn’t explore on his own in a playground with a ball. Research shows that left to their own, children are much better learners.
The other day, I quietly observed from a distance, while my son and his friends played in the park. They organised themselves into groups, took turns to take the lead, and made toys out of sticks and leaves. That is a teambuilding and utilization of resources exercise right there for us adults!
A few years ago, an intriguing experiment was conducted in India, by renowned educational researcher Sugata Mitra. He dug a hole in a wall, bordering a slum, and placed an internet connected PC there. There was a hidden camera that was filming the area. Over days it was seen that kids that had no education or very little education, learnt how to use the computer on their own, surfed the net, and even taught each other. These famous ‘Hole in the Wall ‘experiments demonstrated how in the absence of structure and supervision, kids are incredibly good at teaching themselves a new skill, fueled by curiosity.
My son has an interesting habit. He loves his Lego blocks, and whenever he buys a new one, he never looks at the instructions. He just tries to make the model on his own, looking at the picture on the box. (I guess he gets it from my dislike towards following instructions!) I encourage it. What he builds may not be as flashy, but it is beautiful and impressive as it is creative and original.
I am hoping for a middle path here. One that is between unregulated, meaningless screen time, and back to back dance and tennis lessons.
We have to expose our kids to options, but at the same time inculcate the ability to choose rightly. As parents, we aspire for the best for our kids. But now maybe we need to question ourselves and rethink, “what is the best?”
Photos sourced from the Internet from the author
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Suveera Sharma is a postgraduate in English and a qualified software trainer. She is an avid reader and writer. Being the daughter of an army officer, she spent her childhood in various cantonments all over India. At present, she is settled in Hong Kong. She runs storytelling sessions for little kids and writes in her spare time.