Once upon a time, the six-eight weeks summer holidays were a time of rest and relaxed recreation for parents and children with both taking a well-deserved break from stressful school routines. It was usual to pack the children off to grandparents’ homes where children spent their time in unstructured play with cousins and friends in the neighbourhood and read novels on lazy afternoons.
All this has changed in the new millennium. With the breakdown of the joint family, emergence of dual income nuclear households and a full-fledged summer camps industry, summer vacations have transformed into a period of hectic activity as ambitious parents prepare their children for success in the VUGA (volatile uncertain complex and ambiguous) world. Suddenly, a plethora of heavily advertised extra-curricular self-improvement options such as music and dance classes, intensive sports training and personality and cognitive development programmes are on offer. Impromptu and unstructured play and lazying around is out of fashion.
But even as signing up children for summer camps run by famous professionals has become a status symbol for middle class households, a contrary viewpoint advising a return to old-fashioned lazy summer holidays is striking a resonant chord within well-educated middle-class families. Contrarian educationists and child development gurus are increasingly advocating return to care-free holidays and unstructured free play to recharge children’s batteries. Indeed, latest research indicates that periods of boredom during holidays are beneficial for the cognitive growth and development of children.
In this issue’s cover story, we explain why parents should resist the temptation to pack the summer holiday with professionally administered self-improvement camps and programmes. Instead, we present a carefully curated list of summer activity options beyond normative summer programmes. They include a healthy mix of socially purposive activities such as plogging, water paddling, building bird baths and feeders for birds during the cruel summer months and unhurried and leisurely DIY in-house activities.
Also check out our Early Childhood feature on making homes child-safe by Vellore-based pediatrician Dr. Gita Mathai, Middle Years story on diagnosing and treating symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder in children by Mumbai-based psychiatrist Dr. Manjiri Deshpande, and our newly introduced section Kidzone. The Health & Nutrition feature on treating infants’ cold symptoms suggests useful home remedies.