Much About Doing Nothing

Much About Doing Nothing
Much About Doing Nothing

Summer was simple when I was a child. We had very little resources financially and an abundance of time. Summer days felt long and deliciously conducive to the lost art of thinking.

As a child, I have vivid memories of hanging off the edge of my bed, staring at the ceiling, and imagining a world of bare white floors with no furnishing. An upside-down world. I remember being so entertained by the silly thoughts that were filling my imagination. I have memories of writing “a cookbook” of what I believed to be the most delicious recipes in the world…for a seven year old. I read books and slept under a tree. My brother and I made forts, copied master works of art, and listened to books on tape. It wasn’t that we didn’t like television– there was just hardly need of it with all the creativity flowing about.

When did summer vacation become so complicated? When did summer begin to feel rushed, frantic, hurried, exhausting? When did we make summer about squeezing in as much entertainment, fun, and activities as the schedule could manage?

One of my boys said to me the other day, while fiddling with a Lego spaceship he was creating, “Mama, I love it when we get our chores done and just stay home and do nothing.”

By nothing, I’m sure he did not mean lining everyone up on a bench and sitting with their hands on their laps; doing nothing meant being unhurried, relaxed, and free to explore and create. He wasn’t asking to go to a movie, another water park, a summer program, or the store– he was just enjoying home.

We live in a culture that equates doing with learning, entertainment with engaging, and busyness with living. We know better– even if sometimes we forget.

There are so many opportunities for our little ones to be busy and entertained these days. While there are so many wonderful experiences our children can have through special events, activities, and programs, what our children often really need during summer break is just some time to BE. To think. To discover something about themselves in the midst of perceived boredom. To simply “do nothing.” And, frankly, mamas need the same.

Here are some ideas to get you started in DOING NOTHING today:

1. Send everyone in your family off with a notebook and pencil for 30 minutes. No talking. Write or draw. Create a topic or make it freeform, but enjoy time alone before coming together and sharing what each came up with.

2. Try doing a family digital media fast. No TV, video games, ipods/ipads or computer for a week (or even a day!). And see how much fun kids can have when they think they are bored.

3. Let your kids create snacks or plan a meal with just what’s available in the house.

4. Sit on the couch and listen to classical music on Pandora.

5. Have a conversation with your kids over afternoon tea.

6. Get down on the ground to read a book or play a game. (It’s so much more intimate and less distracting.)

7. Do a back rub line, moving each person at the front of the line to the back after a few minutes, until you go through the line. (Why? Because everyone loves a back rub and fun conversations form when serving one another.)

8. Sit and look out a window, and pretend to read a book.

9. Write a letter.

10. Do nothing.

What are your favorite ways to “do nothing?”

31 thoughts on “Much About Doing Nothing”

  1. It’s so refreshing to read this and to know someone from “that era” when daydreaming, lots of reading under a tree perhaps, or just lazing atop a hill…were fun and great things. I, too, belong in that “lost” age :-D. Now, summer means lots of travelling and being hectic. Just the thought tires me! Lol!

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  2. I was thinking about this a few weeks ago when all the ‘Suggestions for keeping the kids entertained’ blog posts came out. I wondered when this started. I do not remember our parents entertaining us much at all. From sun-up til sundown most days we played outside or in the basement with our toys where it was cool, or swam in a neighbour’s pool or went to the public pool or ran in the sprinkler, or on the slip and slide my father had designed in the back yard (in the 70s before you could buy one at Walmart) Occasionally they took us to the beach or park or to a family friends for a bbq or camping, but for the most part we were left to our own devices and usually did okay at keeping ourselves entertained. What changed?

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    1. I think sometimes we feel guilty when we see all that others are doing, or read posts about all the fun activities we can employ. Every family is different…but I’m convinced that I do not need to entertain or provide activities all day long….I’m giving my kiddos some room to just be. Your childhood sounds super fun and chill, BTW! 🙂

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  3. Love this post! I was just thinking that summer is flying by and we haven’t necessarily relaxed yet! Why do we do this to ourselves? I am instituting the technology fast next week for sure and I love the idea of afternoon tea! Glad to know I’m not the only one who longs for a summer of doing “nothing”!
    Blessings to you and your beautiful family!

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    1. I hope you enjoy the technology fast! It really is amazing what kiddos can do to entertain themselves! And afternoon tea is still one of our favorite traditions…such valuable time together!

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  4. I think many people today equate “busy” with “important”. I’m important because my schedule is full. My whole day is too important for God, for giving to others, because then the day is all about you. And to many people, “you” is the most important person of all unfortunately.
    I understand this is a blanket statement and doesn’t pertain to everyone. Just like this post doesn’t pertain to everyone. But, these are my general observations.

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  5. How true! Until the age of 12, any journeys I made were entirely those made by dreaming or reading. I remember VBS and Library reading programs being the highlight of my summer. We too were poor in money, and my parents divorced when I was 10. So a “big trip” was one made in the span of 45 minutes for a day spent at a park. The in-between days were filled with helping Momma in the garden, gazing at pond life in my backyard, reading and riding my bike. Summer was time to be filled with adventures in my neighborhood. It was a time of simple wonders!

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  6. This is what I’m wondering too: “When did summer vacation become so complicated? When did summer begin to feel rushed, frantic, hurried, exhausting? When did we make summer about squeezing in as much entertainment, fun, and activities as the schedule could manage?” Enjoyed these ideas. Perhaps we’ll have time to just do nothing in the days before school begins now that all our camps and activities are ended. How do you choose? that’s been our struggle. the want to do everything but how do we pick what’s best?

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    1. Lindsey, discerning what is best for your family is truly the key. Every family is different. But, we all have to choose to sacrifice even good things at times, in order to experience the best things.

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  7. Love this post. I remember the summers of my youth – in the 60’s – where we had to come up with things to do ourselves. Prompting great imaginative play and creativity.. Somehow things have changed as I felt the same as you when my children were young. Very difficult to navigate in this culture but kudos for attempting to do so and I am cheering you on! It takes extra work to make slow the summer days but well worth the effort.

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  8. My kids prefer to be at home, doing nothing. They seem happier to play and use their imaginations than run around town going places. Great post and loved these ideas!

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    1. I used to try and go all over town. But, now…it’s partly logistical, but mostly it’s been an issue of priority and wanting to build the bond at home.

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  9. […] Slow Down this Summer: Those summer check lists can be fun, but are they making your life a little too hectic? Is it getting hard to enjoy the warm summer days? Ruth Simmons shares a great reminder to just soak in the time with your kids. […]

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    1. Mary, you can easily share this on your facebook page by either copying the URL link in your browser and pasting in a status update, or by clicking the FB icon at the bottom of this post! Thanks!

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  10. I love this post and simple summers. Our kids have the “having fun while being bored” thing down pat. My favorite thing they ever did was start their own newspaper out of boredness. Thank you for providing a place to link up. I love the Grace of God.

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  11. I am such a busy body that we usually have some sort of running around to do every day. My kids LOVE it when we just hang out here. I should default to them and do it more often. 🙂

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