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No Plans? No Problem!

Have you ever had that feeling on a Saturday, driving from a youth soccer game to a jumpy house birthday party to karate class?

I didn’t think so.

You see, I’ve come to realize that kids don’t care one bit about plans. When we make plans, it’s to satisfy us, not them.

They want to do whatever their brain tells them to do at every moment. They can’t do that when they’re strapped into a car seat staring at our heads or when they’re standing around watching their sister play a nice, controlled game of soccer.

In short, when we’re wandering around with them, without a plan, they’re in control, not us parents. Kids who aren’t used to being in control may not know what to do with that control at first. However, kids who are experts at “wandering around aimlessly” thrive.

Actually, they’re far from aimless – they’re merely free of our aims, free to decide what they want to do at every moment. Have you ever tried to drive somewhere you’ve been to, but always as the passenger, not the driver? I hardly ever know how to get to a place until I figure out how to get there myself. Similarly, kids don’t learn much when we determine what they do, where, and when.

Kids who “wander around aimlessly” learn how to explore, how to talk to people, how to use their bodies. They gain confidence and mastery. And, they have a wonderful time doing it all.

As they get older, they’ll develop a desire to plan ahead on their own, but while they’re young, let them be in control. That means less planning and more fun. Doesn’t that sound like a win-win for you and the kids?

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Mike Lanza

Mike Lanza, MA Ed and MBA (Stanford), is a blogger at and soon-to-be-published book author on the subject of kids' play in neighborhoods. He's worked hard to create a very rich neighborhood play life for his three boys - ages 7, 4, and 2 - in Menlo Park, California. He's also discovered and written about dozens of neighborhoods throughout North America that are doing innovative things to make a vibrant life for kids. Prior to his writing career, Mike was a five-time software and Internet entrepreneur in Silicon Valley.


+ add your own
1:55PM PST on Feb 14, 2013

Thanks Mike.

11:09PM PST on Jan 27, 2012

We took walks around the neighborhood, kids telling me where friends lived. We had some special times walking and talking together. We'd sit on the front step and count cars and wave and smile to people. We rode bikes together finding things in the neighborhood we'd not noticed was a nice close time for us when we'd picnic at the neighborhood park. Watching people is always fun.

8:26PM PST on Jan 26, 2012

We don't make week-end plans ...and NO play-dates for my children! Is such a silly concept to begin with! IF you have to plan to do anything it always comes off as forced or an obligation - just let the chips fall where they may much more fun!

8:17PM PST on Jan 26, 2012

I totally agree that parents should not be over-planning things for their kids.How do they expect them to ever come up with anything for themselves? I suspect this notion that kids need so much structure comes from people who make their living from selling the goods and services that are required for sports and other activitites.And think of the gas you'd save just staying home and playing in the yard.Of course, not everybody has a yard, but I hope you all get the point.Kids need freedom and moms need a rest.

7:59PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

What a lovely gift you gave your sons. Their choices, and your participation.

7:05PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Ah, free time!

6:35PM PST on Jan 25, 2012


6:09PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

When I was a kid we used to be told to go outside on Saturdays. We didn't have a choice, but we didn't mind. Dad would say if it is sunny.. go outside and play. We would swim in the creek, build forts, have a very unorganized kickball games with the neighborhood kids, ride our bikes, and explore. Even on rainy days we'd go out, and in the snow too. We made friends, got in fights, learned a lot, got hurt a little, and we LIVED and THRIVED. Kid's belong in a place where they can create and imagine

9:57AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

NOTro plan anything now and again IS A GREAT PLAN!

6:41AM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Sounds great! Thank you for sharing :)

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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