With YouTube, TV, video games, and smartphones, 'it's important to make sure kids are getting unstructured playtime. Making this harder is the fast-paced and "unsafe" world we now live in. While you are, I might have played out on the street until the streetlights came on, 'that's no longer the norm. In years passed, running a few streets over at 10 to meet a friend was okay. Now? Not so much.
So how then, do we accomplish unstructured and unobserved playtime? In addition, 'what's so great about allowing kids to play without parents watching them all the time? Today we're going to talk about why kids should have unsupervised playtime and how you can encourage it?
Why is Unstructured Play Good?
According to Help Me Grow, "Unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, create, and discover without predetermined rules or guidelines. 'It's been shown to foster cognitive development while boosting physical development and social and emotional development." In short, when you allow your kid to "just have fun," then you give them time to foster creativity and imagination, problem-solving skills, and social skills.
In addition, letting them play by themselves or just with friends allows them to foster independence and creativity separate from the influence that you might carry. For example, when you were a child, did you play cops & robbers or house in the living room with your parents watching or outside with just your friends?
How Much Unstructured Play is Good?
According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, each child should get at least an hour per day to unwind, relax, and have some simple creative playtime. However, this number should be higher on weekends, and the younger the child is. Depending on the type of schooling you have, there is a chance that your elementary student is only getting 30 minutes of recess all day. Add homework after, and 'it's easy for kids not to get the time they need.
How to Encourage Unstructured Play?
Scale Back on Activities
If it seems like you are spending all of your time taking your child to soccer, after school, school, swimming, and t-ball then it might be time to cut one or two from the schedule. We want our kids to experience as much as possible; however, sometimes planning less leads to experiencing more. Consider which of the extracurricular activities take the most time away from "free time" and if they are worth the time that you and your family put into them. If the rewards 'aren't worth the cost, let is go!
Make Them Go Outside
As a kid, you and I probably begged to go outside and disappear for most of the day. 'That's not always likely with kids now. Rather than let them stay inside, make them go outside. You can provide them with some outside toys but tell them to go out and have fun. Though they might resist at first, chances are, they will find out what made it so much fun for us years ago. If you are worried, give them a phone or walkie-talkie they can use to keep in contact.
Let Them Create & Destroy
Kids love to build and tear down blocks, crafts, and more. Give them a craft box, building block, legos, and other reusable toys that inspire creativity. By letting them build, mess up, tear up, and start over you let their imagination take life. Think about chalk, sticks, branches, and dirt if you want to get them outside and creating all at once.
Letting kids play in the mud, bring out every toy, and use paint can be daunting to people who love order. However, the disorder is where kids will thrive. You 'don't have to let them finger paint the wall; however, giving them the space to make a mess and be themselves will show them what they can do. If you need order in the house, set up an "art studio" in the garage on the back porch!