Fit Mom: Why I’m Not (Over) Planning My Kids’ Summer

Jen Walker knows how challenging it can be to keep a family (and herself!) healthy’she’s raising three boys and working


Jen Walker knows how challenging it can be to keep a family (and herself!) healthy’she’s raising three boys and working full time as our senior content editor. How does she do it? Follow her family stories here every Thursday to find out.

Recently I’ve been wrestling with scheduling my sons’ summer holidays. Should I schedule every week or leave a little breathing space for them to fend for themselves and figure out how they’ll spend their days?

Normally by this time of year (Who am I kidding? I have it done no later than January 31 to get the early-bird discounts) I have the 8 to 10 weeks of my three boys’ summer vacation mapped out on a big two-page calendar. I have them registered for sports camps, our family holidays booked and I throw in a couple of weeks at their Grammie’s cottage for good measure. Every week is accounted for.

But this year I’ve been having second thoughts about scheduling them so rigidly. I’ve been reading studies on how engaging in creative play is so good for kids and leads them to become healthier adults who eat well and exercise. And I recently came across a book review for The Idle Parent by Tom Hodgkinson. He extols the virtues of opening up the back door and hustling the kids out for the day to see what kind of fun they can dream up on their own. I think this swing back towards a laid-back approach is healthier for kids and their parents. Not having a specific place to be or thing to do can teach kids to be self-sufficient and to use their imaginations. I feel like my kids have been missing out on all of this “do-it-yourself” play.

So, I’ve decided one week of camp for each kid, two weeks of family holidays spent in our backyard and one week up north with the grandparents will be the only ‘scheduled’ activities. And I’m locking up the PS3 and the Wii so there is no temptation inside (hardcore, I know). Our regular babysitter will be on-hand during the weeks I’m at work and I’ll encourage her to open the back door, let them loose and see what happens. I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road. I’ll have to hold myself back from jumping in with solutions and ideas when I get the first ‘Mom, I’m so bored’ phone call at the office, but I think it’s an experiment that is long overdue at our house.