While the first week off can be relaxing, “the next week can get a bit tiresome for them. When they were young, we had to focus more on keeping them busy.” He joked that today, “I just leave them to make dinner and paint the house.”
He mentioned his kids have summer math and reading assignments to occupy the time. While Hoffman approves of summer homework, he also noted kids “need time to decompress” in the summer before school.
Psychologists agree that time to decompress, even time to experience boredom, can be a good thing for kids.
A 2013 study at Pennsylvania State University found bored subjects performed better on creativity tests than did relaxed, elated or distressed individuals. The reasoning, psychologist and study co-author Karen Gasper told Fast Company, lies in the fact that boredom “encourages people to explore because it signals that your current situation is lacking, so it’s kind of a push to seek out something new.”
Philadelphia counselor Amy Shaitelman, who works with children and incorporates Jewish culture into her practice, corroborated the study’s findings.
With the array of summer activities presented to children, “we have successfully managed to occupy each and every minute of their summer time, filling it up somewhat frantically,” she said, noting she does not recommend this approach.
“Myself and my colleagues argue for some boredom, otherwise known as down time. By not filling up [kids’] down time, by not overscheduling, you are giving them the ability to learn how to just be.”
If parents are able to gently monitor children for two weeks, an easy solution for the long end of the summer lies in embracing children’s boredom.
As Shaitelman noted, “as adults, we can each think of someone we know who is not comfortable with unstructured time. Let’s not allow our kids to become those adults!”