Yesterday, I walked a group of campers to a martial arts lesson. We arrived a bit early, so the instructor told the children that they could have some “free time.” What?! All I saw was a big open area and lots of items to kick or hit. Someone was going to get hurt. Nobody did though.
Slowly the children started to get into groups.
- They played tag.
- They chased each other around the room.
- They practiced some of their stretches.
- They punched and kicked the swinging punching bags.
- They used the row of punching bags almost like a maze, and they weaved themselves in and out of them as the bags slowly swung back and forth: careful not to get hit.
- They skipped.
It was amazing to watch the children.
- How did they interact with each other?
- Who led and who followed?
- How did they include other students in their games?
- What risks did they take, and how did they do so safely?
- How did they add structure to an unstructured environment?
- How did they create their own fun?
I remember summertime when I was a kid. Usually my sister and I went to camp for a week or two, and then we were at home with my mom. Our days were not highly scheduled.
- We read books.
- We played inside (we did love playing school and house) and outside (tag and hide-and-seek were always favourite games).
- We ran through the sprinkler.
- We rode our bikes.
- We went on walks … and even took our dolls with us in their little strollers.
- We connected with friends and had fun with family members.
In our own ways, we learned how to enjoy unstructured time and get past the “bored” and to the “fun” (even without electronics). I wonder how we give children more opportunities — at home and at school — to work through the “free time” and learn from the experience. Maybe, despite what I initially thought, “free time” isn’t so scary after all. What do you think?