*This is a guest post
The schedule. Imagine a life without one.
Seems impossible, right?
We have reached a point in this day and age where everything is put onto the ‘holy’ schedule. Rehearsals, meetings, appointments, classes, events, and… the list goes on. But is there room on that schedule for unstructured play-time? If not, then it might be time to make space for it or even ditch the kids’ schedules altogether in favour of free play.
Granted, a schedule is important in day to day life, but it doesn’t have to be the rule of life. Over-scheduling without allowing for some free time can lead to stress in a child. It can also prevent the development of necessary skills that a child can gain from free time. Filling a child’s day with sports, classes, and appointments while now allowing them time to themselves can actually do them a disservice. Children need this time to explore and learn who they are through play.
If the thought of getting rid of the schedule makes your stomach queasy, then try this: simply get out an indelible marker and put “free play” into a daily slot on that schedule. Try not to think of that particular space as an unused or empty space but rather another important aspect of the day that is as necessary to your child as any of the other slots. Prioritise it.
The Importance of Free Play
Research shows that children who get adequate amounts of free play will benefit in ways that go beyond simply having fun. It will not only improve their physical and mental health but can also build their social skills, build their self-confidence, increase their self-awareness, and many other fundamental aspects of development.
Here are more than 40 examples of free play benefits. These include physical development, problem-solving skills, cognitive abilities, confidence building, personal expression, and creativity.
Memories Build Futures
When we think of child development, it’s easy to forget about memory building. How much do you value your happy memories? And, as an adult, does your life feel better for them?
Think back to when you were a child. What are some of your fondest memories? Do you remember the answers from your 5th-grade science test? Do you have happy memories of specific weekly classes or appointments?
Chances are, the first fond memories that pop into your head are memories of adventure, exploration, or unplanned events that took you by surprise. You may even notice that there is a particular moment in this memory that you have carried with you throughout your life and it helped to shape you in some way.
Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs one can have in life. As parents, we question our abilities and wonder if we’re doing the right thing by our kids. These are perfectly normal and natural questions that we have while raising our children. The important thing to remember is to find and keep that healthy balance between structured and unstructured time; work-time and play-time. This is important for both our children and ourselves as well.
Do you factor in time for free play for your children? Or do your children need more time to enjoy the benefits of free play? Do share in a comment below.