Learning Through Unstructured Play
Rewind the calendar 40 or 50 years and you would have seen a very different scenario in family neighborhoods than seen today. On a bright sunny day, there would be clusters of children riding bicycles, playing hopscotch, climbing trees, or running around. You were often let out the front door in the morning and would only turn for meal times. Your parents trusted you were safe and since there was a common understanding amongst neighbors that you all looked out for each other’s children.
Fast forward to modern times and oh how things have changed. Today you are more likely to see empty streets and often find children inside playing video games even on the sunniest of days. In today’s world playtime is often structured and based around organized activities such as dance class or music lessons.
However, there is a growing movement made up of parents who have simply had enough. Many parents now want their children to experience that same good old fashioned childhood they had. This is good news all around because the benefits of learning through unstructured play are many.
Kids were made to climb trees, dig in the earth, and run around. Each activity teaches your child something new. Through these unstructured simplistic everyday activities they will learn how to problem solve, build relationships, learn balancing and motor skills, care for the earth and others around them and many other valuable life lessons.
There is no denying that unstructured play time is important for children. And while there is a place for organized activities such as music lessons or sports club, these should not replace free play time.
If you’d like to incorporate some unstructured play time in your child’s schedule here are a few tips for modern parents:
#1 – Limit clubs and activities. Let your child choose a few clubs and explain to them why free play time is important. By limiting clubs and activities you free up precious time for your kids to “just be kids.”
#2 – Free up one day a week. Having one day a week to just “be” is a fantastic way to give all family members a chance to relax and unwind. Plan on having one day (Sundays work great) where there are no planned activities or chores. Let each family member have free range to do whatever they’d like this day without having to adhere to a schedule or regimented structure.
#3 – Cut back on electronics. This means limiting the time your kids spend watching TV, playing on the computer and video games. A great option is to incorporate this electronic free time into your free weekly day. If one day without electronic gadgets seems too much how about a few evenings a week or limiting video games for weekends only and limiting the time spent on the games as well.
Unstructured play will help your child grow in many positive ways. Take a little time to think about ways in which you can incorporate free unstructured play into your child’s day. – you’ll be glad you did.