Adults raised in America before the 1990s remember a time when riding a bike to a friend’s house and staying outside all day and out of reach of parents was common practice. Kids did not carry cell phones. But they knew to call their parents (on landlines) to ask permission to leave their usual neighborhood stomping grounds or stay at a friend's house for dinner. They also didn’t have a lot on their schedules.
In the popular post “Banish the Playdate,” parenting blogger Chris Burnholdt, author of the blog Dadncharge.com argues that parents have taken the playdate too far, making it a formal affair that removes all of the spontaneity and adventure of playing. At the same time, he writes that the playdate has too many built-in expectations for parents as well – including forced socializing and time-wasting small talk – when all parents involved could be enjoying their own free time while their kids entertain themselves.
Beyond playdates, the same hyper-scheduling tends to extend to every waking moment of kids’ lives, from sports practices and art classes on weekdays to performances and games on weekends, and camps during every week of summer vacation.
Research shows that allowing kids to be, dare we say it – bored – allows them to utilize their creativity to find things to keep them busy. It also helps to relax parents by freeing up their own schedules as well and saving them from time in the chauffeur seat, driving kids from one activity to another.