Summer! Time for Fun, Learning and Free Play
“Free Play”—two of my favorite words in the English language, put together!
To a child, free play is so crucial, not because it in fact builds character and is necessary for social, cognitive and emotional development, but because it’s FUN!
What is Free Play? It’s often described as good old-fashioned, unstructured playtime with no specific agenda. Kids get to use their imagination, creativity and just relax and have a good time.
Why is Free Play becoming dangerously rare?
Kids these days can be over-scheduled with after school classes, activities and structured routines even surrounding play. Most of these kids’ schedules are designed by good parents with great intentions, to help their kids succeed in the future.
How do you strike a healthy balance between structured routines (that are necessary for your child’s development and growth) and creating free play time (that is crucial for your kid’s emotional/social growth and happiness)?
Summer time provides you with less routine and structured time, naturally. While the kids are out of school and enjoying their Summer break, there are several things you can do as a parent to create a balance in their schedule.
Life isn’t just about schedules
In addition to your child’s structured activities such as: educational classes, camps, sport activities, play dates, and video games (limited to less than an hour per day)… use the following tips to create Free Play daily:
- Make sure kids have unstructured free play time that doesn’t involve video games, daily.
- Provide materials that foster creativity in the play area: such as arts and crafts. Sometimes, just empty boxes of different sizes can open a world of imagination!
- Provide outside time, with activities and toys such as, finger painting, bubbles, gardening, bikes, balls, water play, etc…
- Provide music and dress-up clothes. Some basic musical instruments that could be homemade can be a great addition too. Dress-up games can be so wonderful for pretend-play, which is significant for building social skills.
- Structured games (such as, board games) can be fun and educational and very important to building social skills, however, it’s important that kids don’t spend their entire play time playing only board games. Again, it’s about: Balance.
- When on vacation, explore new environments by taking walks and take a shoebox or a jar with you to collect leaves, flowers, rocks, shells, etc. with your kids. Encourage your kids to take photos.
Once you create an environment that is enticing to your kids, using some of the tips mentioned above, your kids usually take the lead and follow their imagination.
However, if at first, your kids aren’t sure how to engage and entertain themselves during Free Play, perhaps because they are not in the habit of having much unstructured time, you could make suggestions and invite them to try some of the activities you have provided.
If you find it necessary, take the lead and model some play using some of the material you have provided (such as, dress-up clothes or toys) then gradually step back and let the kids lead.
I hope that some of these tips help you provide more Free Play time, and create happy kids!!
As an author/speaker, I have taught parenting workshops, and have spoken at conferences, schools and parenting groups, and would enjoy the opportunity to speak to your audience.
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