Don't cage them

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It is that time of the year when kids put aside their uniforms, stack away their books and indulge in the deep pleasure that summer vacation promises. When I was a kid summer meant nonstop playing with my flatmates.

If the day was hot, which it was on most days, we would play inside someone's house till the sun went down. Lock and key, Hide and Seek, Hopscotch, Marco polo and Kite flying were a few of the games we played and then there were some of our own inventions too. We didn't need bats, balls or fancy coaching to have fun.

Break free

Now the trend has completely changed. My little cousin who is just eight years old goes for tennis and football coaching; my neighbours send their twins to yoga, basketball and music classes every day. It has become a matter of prestige for parents to send their kids to these summer camps. ‘If Mr.X sends his children to summer classes and I don't, then his children would get a winning edge over mine in life'— this is how parents think and they always want the best for their kids. Hence all the screaming newspaper ads that promise excellent coaching for the overall development of the child.

The best of the lot (the costliest!; its prestige we are talking about here) is singled out and the child is kept busy for the next two months. No holiday planning, because it will affect his camp schedule and only shoes of costly brands, because the child should get only the finest. Normal canvas shoes are no longer considered reliable.

The entire idea of playing has become so commercialised and organised that it no longer sounds fun.

Maybe these summer camps do help in the personal development of the child, building their interests in some activity or sport. But playing under a schedule for a particular amount of time, that too under constant instructions from a coach or teacher, curbs their freedom, individuality and takes away the meaning of what summer vacation means to a kid. To me summer meant discovering myself in the joy of playing, doing things I loved not having to follow a schedule and a two-month break from teachers and coaches. We have the rest of the year to be honed into perfectly good citizens of the future. Set the birds free from their cages; allow them to run riot and let them uncover their own hidden potentials.