Today's parents - and kids - are busy, busy, busy. There are schedules to be followed, clubs to be attended, and homework assignments to be completed. But free play is important too, so how can you schedule some in?
Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, at times it can be downright difficult. You want the best for your kids, you want them to grow up happy and confident and you want them to look back on their childhood with a sense of wonder. Experts often stress the importance of free play, but how can you allow for it in the modern world?
When you’re busy ferrying your kids around their after-school activities and clubs, it can be almost impossible to find the time to spend doing nothing. If you work long hours and want to soak up as much time with your kids as possible, you may find the weekends fill up pretty quickly too.
The Benefits of Free Play
There are many benefits to letting your kids take the lead for a little bit. Free play means that kids are free to play whatever and however they want. There are no rules, they don't have to play in a certain way, and they can change what they are doing as often as they like. Free play allows children to develop a sense of independence, to develop problem-solving skills, and to learn valuable skills which prevent boredom. If done in a group, free play allows your child to hone their social skills, to learn about conflict resolution, and to perfect negotiation skills.
3 Tips for Scheduling in Free Play
Now you know why it’s important, let’s look at how exactly you can fit free play into your lives:
1. Make it Routine
It sounds almost counter-productive, doesn’t it? Scheduling in free play surely isn’t free play? After all, if it’s scheduled, it can’t really be free. Well, yes, actually, it can. And if the rest of your week runs to a tight schedule, you might need to schedule in free play. And that’s fine. By including free play as a part of your regular routine, you give this important activity the time and commitment necessary. You could schedule free play for a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon or take a night off from your commitments each week to indulge in some free play. Whenever you decide to do it, make it routine.
2. Do it with Friends
Kids love free play, they can get completely and utterly immersed in a totally made up world with their friends. And, whilst the kids are distracted, you can enjoy some time with your friends as well. You can be anywhere you want to be, a local park on a glorious summer day, bundled up in raincoats in a woodland forest in the pouring rain, or in the comfort of your own home. Let the kids go wild whilst you catch up with your friends. Time well spent.
3. Encourage it
Kids are easily distracted. You ask them to go outside and play, then stumble across them inside 30 minutes later engrossed in a game of pirates. It can be frustrating, but try to remember the benefits of free play. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and your new found love of free play is no excuse for being late for school. That said, however, if you have nowhere to be, allow your child to embrace free play.
Do your kids get to enjoy free play time each week?