By: Panicha Sillapawatayanon, M.A.
Play is an important part of childhood. Play helps children develop cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally. Children who play have healthy brain development. It’s through play that children learn to explore the world around them and start mastering challenges. And above all else, play is enjoyable!
Undirected play, or free play, gives children opportunities to learn new skills while moving at their own pace. Free play allows children to use their creativity, develop their imagination, and encourages them to learn how to share with their peers and resolve their conflicts. Additionally, free play helps keep them active through physical activity! However, parent involvement is always encouraged! Parents who play with their children build relationships with them that are loving and engaging. Even when parents simply watch their children play they are able to take a peek into their children’s world. Parent supervision is needed when children are playing outside too. It’s important to note that true free play isn’t passive play such as video games, watching tv, or playing on the iPad.
Some examples of free play include:
Overscheduled children have less high-quality family time and are unable to receive the benefits of free play that would help protect them against the effects of stress. Ultimately, every family is different so parents can decide on the appropriate amount of scheduled activities that suit their family. But in my experience, many parents feel as though they can’t slow down or their children will fall behind. Some also worry that they won’t be good parents if they don’t match up to what the other parents are doing. Consider finding a good balance for your family between living (playing) in the moment and preparing for their future. Every child has different needs, so it’s likely that your family’s balance will look different from others.
What if my children are bored?
It seems that in our culture, we’re used to moving at a quick pace. We’re always looking for “what to do next?”. Children need to grow comfortable with silence and become bored sometimes. Feeling bored is a great opportunity for them to develop creativity! Avoid filling their free time with screen entertainment, and you’ll see how imaginative and creative they can become. It’s okay to say no to your children instead of feeling you have to go the extra mile or they will suffer or be deprived. Children will have plenty of time to be stressed and overscheduled as adults!
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