So often we hear that we need to get our kids to be more active. I think a lot of times parents automatically think that this means working out or joining a sports team. And while I think that competitive sports are an important part of developing a well-rounded child, what gets lost is the importance of free play. With all of the structured activities and the strictly scheduled lives that kids have these days, many are left without any real time to just play.
So why is it so important to let kids play? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in addition to being important to healthy brain development, the benefits of free play include:
- allowing kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths
- encouraging kids to interact with the world around them
- helping kids conquer their fears and build their confidence
- teaching kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
- helping kids practice decision making skills
- that it is fun
It is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child-driven play. It is not the kind of play time that is totally controlled by adults and does not include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer or TV.
Keep in mind that even though free play is not controlled by adults, children stil need to be supervised, especially when playing outside.
True free play is any kind of unstructured activity that encourages your child to use his imagination, such as playing with blocks, puzzles or Legos. It does not include playing with most electronic toys. Free play can be a group of kids playing soccer in the backyard together, playing a game of tag or creating stories. The important thing is to let the kids use their imaginations and experience the freedom of playing on their own.
Until next week,
Today’s Fun Fact: Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny, was allergic to carrots.