Playtime is becoming a rarity these days.
In its place, we now see lots of extracurricular activities and screentime. And while both can bring value, neither can replace the vital benefits that unstructured free play brings our children.
Are We Undervaluing Free Time?
It can be pretty easy to end up with overscheduled kiddos. Not on purpose, of course; we just want to ensure they grow into well-rounded individuals. That's why we try to give them lots of opportunities to learn as many skills as possible in the best ways possible.
But are sports, school, arts, and extra tutoring filling up our kids’ calendars to a detriment?
According to experts, it could be. Studies have shown that children need some unstructured time to create their own games with their own rules at their own pace. Whether they decide to play with their friends outside or alone in their bedroom, it is great for their hearts, minds, and souls.
Why Does Playtime Matter?
The scientific research is pretty incredible as to how much free play can help our littles. For example, did you know that child-led play can give your young ones the skills to transition to Kindergarten with less stress? Or that free play can boost your child’s decision-making skills?
In fact, here are a whopping 43 profound benefits that play brings to children:
How to encourage more free play?
1) Embrace the great outdoors
Get your kiddos outdoors. Nature is where the magic happens, and, once you're out and about, it doesn't take much to get your kids exploring.
2) Model the fun
If children are getting absorbed in screens, instead of simply nagging, why not show them what they are missing? Jump on your bike and take to the sidewalk. Kids often respond better to visual and experiential motivation, so they'll probably grab their own scooters to join you.
3) Pick active play toys
Avoid digital devices that only provide passive entertainment. These don't provide the many benefits of active free play. Try ditching the tablets in favor of toys that get kids outdoors or dressing up outfits which inspire make-believe role play.
4) Leave them to it!
While it can be wonderful playing with our kiddos, it can be difficult to do without imposing our own ideas. Don't feel bad for stepping back. It’s important that they have space to make their own rules. This develop their cognitive abilities and nurtures social cooperation as they work it out with their peers
So yes, it turns out that we might need to dial back on some structured activities to give our kiddos a bit more time to run, draw, or even pre-tend to a flock of chickens for an hour. Just remember, no matter how silly it looks, they are gaining valuable skills from those games.
Let them play!