Chances are you’ve seen the movie “The Sandlot.” If you haven’t, you’re going to want to put that on your summer movie list. (Also, you’re killin’ me, Smalls.) If you have seen the movie—whether it was one time or a hundred—you probably know the movie revolves around a group of fifth-grade boys, baseball, and a large dog named Hercules. The movie is sweet and funny and filled with tons of gif-worthy quotes. Without realizing it, the movie also formed the framework for my summer parenting philosophy. Because I want my kids to have a Sandlot summer too.

The Sandlot kids pass their summer days largely unsupervised and unscheduled. They spend a lot of time playing baseball, getting bored, and playing baseball some more. They get into a little mischief and they tell a lot of stories. It is the kind of summer we parents get nostalgic about. 

It’s also the kind of summer I want my children to have.

Our Sandlot summers weren't just a matter of convenience; they were also an intentional decision to give my kids unscheduled and independent summers.

Our Sandlot summers happened somewhat organically. Once my kids reached a certain age, summer day camps no longer held their interest. Sports camps were an hour or two, tops. And the neighborhood was filled with other kids their age who they wanted to hang out with. So we stopped scheduling activities and summer plans started to look a lot like “let’s see what the day brings”.

Our Sandlot summers weren't just a matter of convenience; they were also an intentional decision to give my kids unscheduled and independent summers. Summers with lots of free time. Summers spent perfecting their cannonball at the public pool. Summers spent away from adults and surrounded by other kids. Summers where they get bored and create adventures.

Related: Summer is here—and so is my mom guilt 

For the most part, we've been pretty successful in our Sandlot summers. My kids spend long afternoons at the public pool. They bike around town for hours. They stay out until the streetlights come on. Literally. Sometimes even later. And yes, they get into a little mischief here and there. Mostly, though, they make mountains of memories, build their independence and have a ton of fun with their friends.

It's downright magical.

One afternoon, in a desperate attempt to have a little quiet so I could focus, I told my kids (who were about 8 and 11 at the time) to go outside and find something to do. They spent the next few hours walking around the neighborhood looking for kids to play with and browsing a few garage sales that happened to be going on. They came back with stories, and I had a few hours of quiet working time. Win-win.

Experts back up the benefits of a Sandlot summer too. Educational expert Jessica Lahey goes so far to say that unscheduled, unsupervised free time is one of the most valuable educational opportunities our kids can have. Of unscheduled and unsupervised playtime, Lahey wrote in The Atlantic, “It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health.”

If you want to give your kids a Sandlot summer but you’re a bit apprehensive, consider a hybrid version by teaming up another family who lives nearby. You can take turns being the “host parent” with another family or two so that the kids can entertain themselves while also having a designated adult who’s on call if anything arises. Instead of all-day camp or childcare, consider half-day options or a sports camp that’s a couple hours a day. And let your kids play unsupervised for longer and longer periods of time.

A Sandlot summer involves both trust and grace—for your kids and yourself. It’s okay if your child spends more time than usual playing video games or watching movies; kids need a break too. It’s okay if they spend hours just staring up at the sky; that’s where creativity is born. It’s even okay if they get in a little mischief; after all, that’s how they learn.

Related: My last-minute summer bucket list 

As Scott Smalls’s mom tells him in The Sandlot, “I want you to get out in the fresh air and make friends. Run around and scrape your knees. Get dirty. Climb trees and hop fences. Get in trouble for crying out loud. Not too much, but some. You have my permission. Now how many mothers do you think say that to their sons?”

Well, this mom, for one.