Opting out of the rug rat race

I live in Tribeca, arguably one of the wealthiest zip codes in the country. From hedge fund partners to celebrities to stay-at-home moms, we all have one thing in common — well, those of us who are parents anyway — we are all deeply invested in our kids and will spend great sums of money to help them succeed.

From infant mommy-and-me classes, to enrichment programs to pricey preschools, more New York families are willing to spend the big bucks on their kids and their futures. It’s called the “Rug Rat Race” by some, and it’s the belief that early childhood development is the key to our children’s lifelong success.

In many ways, I am a believer in this concept and have enrolled my children in a number of mommy-and-me classes and other early childhood educational programs. I have even enrolled them in a Spanish language class (and they’re not even 3 yet), because I believe it’s good for their development. While I don’t discount the value of these classes and programs, I’ve come to realize something else: simply letting our kids just have fun is just as important.

Like a lot of kids in this city, my kids will be going to preschool in the fall. Initially, I thought about enrolling them in more classes to “prepare” them for preschool. One evening, though, I was playing with my kids and started tickling them and realized it had been weeks since I really played with my kids and made them laugh. We spent so much time going from program to program that we weren’t spending as much time together without the activities and without the instructors.

Then, I thought we would try something new. I thought we would go for a few months without classes and try having fun together. Now, instead of classes, my kids go to the park, they go on trips, or we just sit together and play. Of course, there are days when I miss the routine of our classes and wonder if we are missing out on something. Sometimes I even ask my mommy friends what classes their kids are taking now!

Since our “enrichment fast,” though, I’ve seen my kids make remarkable transformations. They are more courageous and confident at the park. They laugh more and play more. They’ve also advanced in leaps and bounds in terms of their speech and emotional development.

Over the next few weeks, many kids in the city will be out of school and will be spending more time at home. As parents, we could use this time as an opportunity for more classes, or to enroll them in a program we think will keep them one step ahead of their peers. Or, we could use this time to to bond with our kids and give them permission to just be kids and just have fun.

Here are five fun (and experiential) things to do with your kids this summer:

• June is strawberry-picking season, so take your kids berry picking! It’s an event they’ll be sure to remember.

• Take your kids to a petting zoo.

• Have your next family dinner at the beach.

• Take a road trip.

• Camp out in your own backyard or living room!

Whatever you do this summer, have fun!

Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former Family Law attorney. You can read her blog at www.tripletsintribeca.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tripletsintribeca and on Twitter @NotoyaG.