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Create a Sunny Day Rule

It's the Monday after the Fourth of July. I'm up early. Birds are singing. The dawn sun is blazing. It's going to be a sunny, summer day. A summer day in the truest sense, because my three boys are home from school. No buses to catch, no daypacks filled with books. They can sleep until they wake up.

Chris, my youngest, will wake first, trundle downstairs in his boxer shorts, pee, and scratch himself, wondering what to do in the quiet house. His first instinct will be to go to the family room and turn on the TV.

But there it will be: Daddy's homemade sign, taped to the set.

No TV today.
Sunny Day Rule.
Dad.

He'll grumble and look around. And for a few minutes, he won't know what to do with himself. But then he'll either pick up a toy, grab a book, or dress himself and think about calling friends to play.

I established the Sunny Day Rule early in my children's lives. And even though it causes dissension and complaining at first, I'm serious about it. If it's raining and cold outside, they know I'm no Captain Bligh. I'll let them watch TV. But if it's a beautiful day, there's no excuse for growing roots on the sofas. Outside with you, I tell them. Go! Go build something! Go swimming! Go ride your bikes!

Better yet, go make yourself breakfast.

Ever heard of myelin? Myelin is a gel-like substance that grows along brain cells when learning takes place. Imagine dipping a fishing net in jelly. That's how a memory for life, or better yet, call it a mastery, appears in the neural networks of our brains. That's how something a child has learned to do, or experienced, is stored.

Children's brains contain 10,000 miles of neural network for every cubic inch of cortex. That's a lot of potential real estate in which to install knowledge. So, at least in our house, we invoke the Sunny Day Rule for summertime because our children's chances of myelinating fresh neural nets soars every time we put that sign on the TV. There's so much incredible potential there. No sense having it flicker at some dim level for hours on end, while the sun shines bright outside.

But what will I think up for my child to do, you ask? That's the whole point. Don't bother thinking up anything. Let your child do it. In this case, doing less is really doing a whole lot more.

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