When my children were around two and four, we had had a long stretch of rainy, cold weather on Cape Cod where we were living at the time. After several days of this, we were all so sick and tired of being together in the house that we were all feeling the strain with one another. And so, even though I had no plan, I piled everyone into the car and went for a drive. Somehow we made our way to the beach even though it was most decidedly not a beach day. But like they say, necessity (and a mother’s desperation) is the mother of all invention.

We got out and made our way onto the sand. Because I had not planned on coming to the beach, I had no food, no towels, no toys and no friends. This was something I had never done before, nor even considered, typically arriving at the beach with enough supplies for an army.

Hours later I had to drag them off the beach. From out of their own minds and bodies, and in collaboration with their surroundings, came exploration, companionship, curiosity, creativity and more. Everything they needed was inside of them; aided and brought forth by what was outside of them. It was a pivotal realization for me as a mother to witness just how little they needed, and just how big they could create out of virtually “nothing.”

We are harboring an undermining belief when it comes to our children. We believe that they require entertainment 24/7. We believe that they need lots and lots of externals to be satisfied. We think they need screens and gadgets to do it for them, believing they must be continually wowed, stimulated and done for in their play and interactions. All of this derails their own creativity, natural movement, and imagination, the forerunners of intellectual, social and emotional capacities.

This mentality is robbing our children of the joys that naturally arise in a childhood that is free from too many externals, done fors and distractions. And along the way, we are forgetting that the less they need to be OK, the better, happier and more imaginative they will ultimately be.