Children need plenty of time for unstructured play during the...

Children need plenty of time for unstructured play during the summer. Credit: iStock

While parents these days want to find enticing and enriching programs for their children to participate in over the summer, they should be careful not to overbook the kids -- leave ample time for plain old play, says Madeline Levine, who has written a new book called “Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success” (Harper Collins, $25.99).

Kids need time to climb trees, chase fireflies, build a fort in the woods, Levine says.
"All the things that parents want for their kids that they think are going to ensure academic success for their kids happens in play," Levine says. Play is a training ground for the world; playing tag, for instance, involves a follower and a leader, and negotiating who does what. "You can send your kid to a leadership camp for $5,000. But they also get a lot of the exact same benefit from play," the San Francisco-area consultant and educator says.

Levine gives these five suggestions to help you build more play into the summer:

-- Buy into the belief that play is important.

-- Get back in touch with your own playfulness – get in the pool with the kids, get on your bicycle. "Part of the job of being a parent is making your kids want to ultimately grow up," Levine says. “If all they see you doing is working ... why would they ever want to grow up?”

-- Help your kids make a “bucket list” for the summer. What would they really like to do?

-- Ask them which scheduled activities they’d like to keep and eliminate ones their least favorites.

-- Pencil in low-key friends and family times, even if it means saying no to some invitations. Perhaps choose one night a week set aside for random play.


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