These days with the busy schedules that the parents have to deal with, they try to pack their kids’ time into adult-driven and adult-supervised activities at an early age, thinking they have no other choice. They also do it because it is convenient for them to send the kids for some routine activity and free themselves from taking care of them for a few hours.
However, such activities come at the cost of free and unstructured play which is critical for a healthy development of a child. Free play in essential for the emotional, social, physical, and cognitive well being of kids and youth. For some parents, it may be challenging to provide their kids with unstructured play time, without constant supervision. It can be really hard to balance the desire of letting kids have and explore their freedom and learn from their experiences and mistakes, and reasonable concern and vigilance.
Some of the benefits of free play are listed below.
· Undirected and unstructured play helps children to learn how to be collaborative, to share, and to resolve conflicts on their own.
· In the child-driven play, children can practice decision-making skills. It lets them move on their own pace and discover their interests and find their passions.
· When their play time is being controlled by adults, children are forced to follow the rules laid down by the adults and focus on excelling rather than enjoying. This makes them lose the benefits that come from the play like developing leadership, creative skills, and team spirit.
· Free play protects children from stress and pressure of the studies and other activities.
· Unscheduled time allows for peer interaction which is an important part of social-emotional learning.
Here are some methods which can help you to incorporate more time for unstructured play in your kids’ day.
· Change your own mindset. You are programmed to be productive as a successful adult. On the other hand, children are not adults. Their work is their play and they are being productive by playing.
· Let your child leave your comfort zone. Let your child take a calculated risk in a natural environment and let them learn from their mistakes and improve their judgement. Do not always keep them zoned in where you find your kid safe and yourself comfortable. Doing this will hamper their growth and development.
· Limit the number of extra-curricular activities. Let your child take up the activities that they enjoy. If there is no joy in learning there is no point of taking up an activity. Also, let the kid choose what he or she wishes to learn rather than engaging them in activity that you yourself are interested in. If it seems like that these activities are draining your kids and eating up all their free time, it would be wise to drop some of them.
· Let your child be bored. It is necessary to have some time doing absolutely nothing. Every moment does not need to be scheduled. Also, some of the best creative ideas come to mind when we are bored.
· Limit their time on gadgets. By limiting their time for using electronic gadgets like TV, tablets, and mobile phones, you can actually free sufficient time for some real outdoor playing for kids.