Nowadays, with the wide availability of extra-curricular activities, it is very tempting for parents to fill their children’s time with activities. Piano, painting, playgroups, tennis, football, there are just so many things to do and most parents won’t want their kids to miss out on the benefits.
However, there is also a tendency and even pressure for parents nowadays to structure and schedule their kids time, filling every waking moment with one adult-supervised activity or another. While organized activities definitely have many benefits, you may notice that kids tend to get a bit irritable, stressed or burned out when they are over-scheduled.
We truly believe that children should have freedom to play to their heart’s content. And there is a growing understanding that free play is actually incredibly beneficial to a child’s development, particularly in early childhood.
Free play means giving kids time and space to use as they like. To be spontaneous, to be free to invent a game, play dress up and pretend, do whatever their imagination directs them to, spend time with family and friends.
So, for us, the key word here is balance. Creating a mix of free play and structured time helps kids build an array of skills and feel more balanced in their everyday lives.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of scheduled activities and free play:
- Builds discipline and camaraderie
- Helps kids explore diverse interests
- Develops gross motor skills
- Develops social skills and respect for others, helping kids learn to get along with even people they don’t like.
- Builds confidence and self-esteem
- Helps children learn to manage time and prioritize
- Builds creativity and expands imagination
- Develops motor planning skills
- Helps to manage stress level
- Fosters decision making skills as children decide what to do with their own time
- Fosters independence, teaching children to entertain themselves
- Helps develop social skills and collaborative play skills, helping children develop conflict resolution skills
- Provides opportunities for children to discover their interests and skills!
By the way, free play does not include time with electronics - this means TV, video games, iPad apps.
While use of electronics is certainly a convenient way to keep a child occupied and may even be educational in some instances, there are many disadvantages including promoting a sedentary lifestyle, lack of interpersonal interaction which could hinder development and overuse could even cause addiction.
Childhood is a special time that lasts only for a little while. So, try to keep your children’s time as balanced as possible, Mom and Dad!