Summer used to be a lazy time, for relaxing and playing with other kids on the block. But with today's increased mobility, children are constantly asking to "go somewhere" or "do something."
Our children's increased mobility became quite clear to me when my son was about 4. As I shopped for toys for his birthday, I found a train in a suitcase, a microscope in a suitcase and building blocks in a suitcase. Even the doctor's kit was no longer in a doctor's bag - it was in a suitcase! The message was clear: Have kid, kid will travel.Unfortunately, each suitcase only brings one thing. It's either take all the luggage - and all the toys - or get stuck doing one thing. The bored child quickly tunes in the mobility mindset by asking, "When are we leaving?" or "Where do we go next?"
These do-one-thing suitcase toys have another important drawback: They do not prepare our children for the most important suitcase - the bookbag.
Like a woman's purse or an executive's briefcase, a child's bookbag should be a survival kit for school. Bookbags are mail pouches that take notes from teacher to parent and vice versa. They carry utensils for school, such as pencils, pens and protractors. They carry lunch bags or lunch money to keep children well-fed. They are the security boxes of graded papers and study sheets that need to be filed at home.
Instilling the philosophy of "do-one-thing" is a disservice to our children. As they enter the on-the-go world of increased mobility, they need to learn to organize all the tools they need and to plan how to use their tools wisely.
What to do: Instead of having your child carry a "do-one-thing suitcase," have your child make his own summer survival kit. The goals are increased organization and planning that will give your child a greater sense of independence to create his own "fun." And the benefits can last far beyond summer.
Let your child decide what form the summer survival kit will take. It could be last year's bookbag, a duffel bag, a backpack or even a shopping bag. If your child will be traveling during the summer - to camp, on vacation or to see relatives - make sure the summer survival kit is in a form that will be easy to carry along.
For example, children who will be traveling by air may want to use a backpack or small duffel bag that will stow under the airplane seat. Families planning long car trips may purchase or make multipocket organizers that fit around the back of the car's front seats.
What goes inside a summer survival kit? That's your child's decision, but make sure this is not a do-one-thing bag. Just putting in a favorite toy is not enough. Paper, crayons, pencils, scissors, pipe cleaners, cellophane tape, books and other items can be included.
Help your child stop carrying toys and instead "carry fun" with items that can be changed for multiple uses.
The summer survival kit can be used at home or on trips. If you are planning to go out, make sure your child has at least a half-hour to prepare his kit. This will help your child feel in control of his "suitcase" rather than controlled by one function, and it places responsibility on the child - not on the parents.
This fall, carry over the success with the summer survival kit to next year's school bookbag. Each night, set 10 minutes for your child to prepare his bookbag. He'll be ready to organize it and make the bookbag serve his needs instead of just being a place to put away his books.