When I was young, I remember sitting around with friends or hanging out in the park with absolutely nothing to do. No schedule at all…nothing to do but just BE. Somehow this unstructured time helped shape me. My friends and I would talk, do cartwheels, role play hilarious scenarios, crack up – truly revelling in the space and freedom of summer. These days parents seem heavily focused on their kids being very busy doing things to help them become well rounded human beings. An idle hour in which nothing is scheduled is somehow seen as bad, or useless. Maybe they worry that they are a bad parent if their kids are not following some schedule. Yet many studies prove that unstructured play is essential to a child’s growth. The creative space which free play invites, with kids being kids together without adult control, can offer them a host of tools that they will need for a more productive, happier life.
Here are some of the benefits and facts about free, unstructured play from Momstream.com:
- Play is important to healthy development of the brain;
- Undirected play helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills;
When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue;
- When play is controlled by adults – such as in organized sports – children have to follow to adult rules and concerns (like winning) and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills;
- Play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children;
- Play and unscheduled time that allows for peer interactions is an important component of social-emotional learning; and
So, let them frolic, roll down hills, dance, bike, run around, play tag, and simply be in the moment – the ever illusory moment. At day’s end they will feel blissfuly satiated. Remember those days? Wouldn’t it be nice to offer those same memories to your children? Enjoy the summer!