When school gets out for summer, families often find themselves needing to plan for children being home for a few months. When I was growing up, I spent most summers at home with my mom doing her usual activities and with my siblings, one younger and four older. We only had a few scheduled activities: a week of camp here or there and a family vacation or two. Beyond that, we were left to our own creativity for weeks on end.
And, of course, there were no computers in varying sizes and shapes to offer us inspiration or activities.
As daunting as this may seem to some of the current generation of kids growing up with screens in every corner of their lives, our family tried an experiment last summer to try to recapture that experience. We went completely technology free from the day school got out until the week before Labor Day. No screens of any kind were allowed except for occasional movies on the television screen and adults being able to check their phones for basic communication.
It was magical. What we all discovered was the wonderful reality that creativity is alive and well in everyone’s brain and spirit. We learned that everything could become a creative activity if taken with the right approach. Buying fresh food from the growers’ market and cooking together in the kitchen became a great family activity. Preparing a menu based on what was available fresh that day became a creative act. And discussions moved from more surface topics to deeper life issues as the sounds of the digital world were quieted and we had more time to spend listening to ourselves think and reflect.
Many studies have been conducted that show what we intuitively remember when we take a little time to be quiet: creativity heals the soul, helps us repair problems in our lives, mends challenges in relationships, keeps us healthier, and makes life a whole lot more fun if we let it.
And one of the very best things about creativity is that it is free. It comes without a battery or a chord to charge it. We do need to re-charge, but that happens most easily when we do things that bring us back to our true nature – being in nature, for one, or doing anything restful, relaxing, and playful.
This summer my family has not decided to go completely tech free, but we are limiting screen time of any sort to a very short amount of time. Technology, when used well, can help increase our creative ideas, help us learn new things, and help us connect with others in some pretty amazing ways.
But most of this summer for our family will be spent in ways that help our creativity blossom. We will do lots of walks, as much swimming as we can, create art projects, write a bit, read lots of books, play outside, build forts in the den, listen to music, fool around on musical instruments, cook and garden, play with our pets, and generally relax.
We will try to laugh as often as we can to keep those good, creative juices going and to keep happiness flowing through our bodies and house.
And we will remember to be grateful for all of the time we get to have together, for the time we each have separately to do the things we enjoy, and for the simple fact that creativity lives inside each of us. We just have to give it room to grow.