Somewhere, in something I read, it talked about how kids need time alone to really figure themselves out. In time spent by themselves, they learn who they are, what they like, and carve out their own path. If you never give kids this time, then all you see is a reflection of what you are pushing on them. Remember, this is always with the best intention. We want to expose our kids to what we think is best. The trouble is, sometimes we fill their days with so much of what we think they want, that they don't have time to discover something themselves.
I saw this a lot with Colin over the past two years. As he outgrew daily naps, I still desperately needed the shut eye (my babies take forever to sleep through the night!) And being that Colin is quite responsible for his age, I told him that he didn't have to nap in his room if he played quietly on his own downstairs and let me sleep.
And he did, quite contentedly, for about two hours each day. At first I noticed that he spent most of his time playing with his toys in the playroom, which is how he always spent most of his playtime. But after a week or so, he had gathered together some art supplies and started creating. He would rarely just draw; usually his art time involved lots of folding and cutting and gluing. He was often recreating something from memory or from a game. And he could literally sit there for those two solid hours and work away at it.
I've mentioned before how art time is something I rarely do with the boys, because it was never my thing. But I'm so glad Colin discovered a love for it. But more than that, I've noticed that this time alone has really caused Colin to grow. He is much more capable at thinking laterally now. He doesn't only see the options I present, but looks for other ideas, different ways to go about things. That time alone really encouraged him to develop that unique thought process in him, and to be comfortable and confident in it.
Now Caleb is starting to enter this stage. 99% of the time he still takes his nap, but once in a while he's crept out early and stated that he isn't tired. So off he takes himself downstairs to amuse himself. He hasn't really found his niche yet, I think. So far he has gotten into the art supplies, but more in imitation of Colin. But he has come leaps and bounds in Lego building, as he starts to make much more intricate designs, with movable parts and stories behind the creations.
We are often so eager (desperate?) to fill every moment of our kids' time with activities. It's been nice to observe the positive aspects of just letting them be for a bit, to see where they go (grow).