It’s that time of summer when kids are still running through sprinklers but the grocery store shelves are crammed with notebooks, braded folders, and boxes of Crayola Crayons.
I’m a Crayola kid. Still.
I love the smell of a brand-new box and the sight of all those pretty pointy colors lined up in rows. Getting a new box of crayons was always a treat. Most school supply lists called for 12 or 24, but sometimes my mom would sneak an extra box into the cart. My favorite was the box of 64 with the built in sharpener in the back. With the 64 you got the basics, but you also got special colors, such as periwinkle, which was good for sky, and silver, which had all sorts of possibilities.
The crayons have changed a lot. Not only do they have several languages listed on the crayons now (red, rojo, and rouge) but the colors themselves are different. The new box of 64 includes granny smith apple and robin’s egg blue and tickle me pink.
Some of my favorite memories of elementary school were when the teacher would pass out big sheets of manila paper and tell us it was “art time.”
I don’t think kids do “art time” anymore. Not in our schools, anyway. Yes, they have a structured art class, which is great. But the school day has become so programmed now and every single minute (every minute) is designated for some specific curriculum objective.
Same for P.E. They don’t just go play kick ball or do scooter boards. My kids come home with Fitness Grams detailing their body mass index and whether their sit-up tally is “within range” for a child their age.
I can appreciate structure. I certainly appreciate the school’s focus on fitness. But I wonder, when do kids just get to be kids anymore?
I look around at the middle school bunch, where children are trying out for sports teams. When I was growing up I tried out for three sports and played two. (The basketball team didn’t want me, so that was a disappointment, but I survived.) Now I see kids trying out for seventh-grade sports teams, such as soccer or football, and they have literally spent eight years playing that sport, including attending clinics and summer camps. Gone are the days when your child can waltz into middle school, try a few things, and see what fits.
What concerns me is that we are so programmed now, there is little time for discovery.
There is little time to open the box of crayons and simply explore. From pre-kindergarten, so many children now have their schedules programmed with soccer practices and piano lessons and cheer camp. Where is the time to just grab a ball and go play in the park? Where is the time to doodle on a piece of manila paper?
The other day I was chatting with another mom about this trend and she told me she believes that in our push to make kids excel at something, many kids are missing their calling because they never get the chance to discover it.
Do you remember some of the unstructured activities you did as a kid? Do you think kids today are missing out, or gaining an advantage?