The normalisation of formalisation. I worry about this. Not a great deal. But certainly a bit. At what point in time did we stop allowing to be kids and replace running and cycling around madly with diary entries and formality? Take my daughter for instance. She’s part of my coaching group at Cardiff JIFkids, we attend Taekwondo classes as a family, – think about that Mr Car Driver, the next time you cut us up at a junction* – She attends a coached swimming class and loves attending local running events. Now all of this is, of course, a good thing. It puts her on a good platform for a healthy lifestyle, provides plenty of exercise and great skills training. But what it also does is diarises activity, places everything in a framework and reduces creative play time. When asked what she prefers to do, her eyes light up and she says ‘Cycling, Daddy!. If pressed further, she’ll tell you it’s because she gets to have fun with her friends. At our club, we allow the kids a bit of time to run around like lunatics and enjoy themselves at the finish.
So is it the cycling she enjoys, or the brief period of free play? It’s both. And in my view both are critical to the mental and physical development of a child. If we fail to let them explore the world around them – with friends and family – through the medium of games and adventures, then we’re likely to hamper their interest, enthusiasm and independence. We live in a risk adverse society, where parents worry endlessly about potential freedoms afforded to their kids. It’s understandable. I feel it too. But the risk of denying these freedoms is that kids miss out on a key element of their childhood; and we become responsible for extinguishing the spark.
So how do we reintroduce freedom into a child’s routine? (Now there’s an oxymoron). Let’s give ‘em a bit of space. Throw caution to the wind occasionally. Bin the formal session for an hour or two of pedalling around the park. A micro-adventure perhaps; start ‘em young. Fill a rucksack invite a friend or two, stick on some clothes that you don’t mind getting grubby and go native for the afternoon. Climb a tree. Paddle a kayak. Skip a stone. How about a trip to the beach? There’s plenty of fossils on the coast close to our home. It is quite an adventure. Whatever you choose, do make some time for it. Let kids be kids. Go on. Stick it in the diary.
*We’re very polite, well trained and mild mannered.