Kids nowadays have so many more scheduled activities than kids used to that it can leave them precious little time to just be kids and play. The importance and value of self-directed and un-scheduled play for children is vital to their development and cannot be understated.
THE BENEFITS OF UN-SCHEDULED PLAY
- It empowers them to feel capable
- It provides them with opportunities to problem solve and work things out for themselves
- It offers them the chance to be responsible
- It encourages them to be creative
- It gives them the opportunity to develop their social skills and connect with other kids
- It gives them the opportunity to feel that they count and have a voice
- If playing with other children, it might give them the opportunity to perhaps take the lead in a game or adventure where they otherwise wouldn’t
- It might give them the opportunity to feel courageous and try new things
- From a developmental perspective (which is a whole other blog in itself) it is of paramount importance that children get the opportunity to have plenty of time for age appropriate free un-scheduled play
I am always amazed at just how creative children can be when they are given the opportunity. Again, the key words here are “WHEN THEY ARE GIVEN THE OPPORTUNITY”.
Given the opportunity, children will often think of things and come up with ideas that we would never think of, but if they become used to us doing the creating for them they will simply turn to us to come up with ideas for them. After all that is a pretty easy option, which brings me back to one of my favorite parenting quotes:
“Never do for a child what a child can do for themselves”
I don’t know about you, but when I see this quote I think mainly of the physical things we do for our children, I would like to invite you to think of not just the doing bit but to extend this to the thinking and creating piece as well.
We can all think of a time when our child has come to us whining, saying “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. In our family, these moments often become the catalyst for them to become creative and come up with something enterprising, captivating, fun and usually messy, to do. And, these play times are often the ones they remember with the fondest memories:
“Do you remember the time we went to the park and dammed the stream and then built that mud slide”
“Oh yeh, the time you fell in and got soaked and then Sam came with that old office chair and we all ended up having muddy office chair rides down the street. That was the best day ever”
We can certainly guide our children into coming up with ideas for themselves but need to be careful that we do not become their sole entertainment system and organizational system thus robbing them of the capacity to think of and create fun games and opportunities for themselves.
Fast forward the clocks and imagine your child in their later grades where they need to be creative and come up with a novel way of doing something. Do you think this would faze your child or do you think he / she would embrace the situation and be self-motivated and able to take it on? This is a skill that children need to learn and it’s up to us as parents to make sure they get enough opportunity to develop it and become good at it. Plenty of time for un-scheduled play will help them develop these sorts of skills.
Spring is here, it’s the perfect time for children to get outside and play, a time to be free from schedules and routines. As parents, it is up to us to make sure that they have enough time to do this. I encourage you to take a look at your calendars and create time to unlock them from their schedules to give them the freedom and wonderful opportunity to just be kids and play, to create and have fun.
If you have any other ideas on the power of un-scheduled play for our children, I’d love to hear from you.
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