Between video games, tv shows, scheduled play dates, Pinterest crafts and extracurricular activities it seems that children are having a difficult time understanding and participating in free play. What should come naturally to a child has now become foreign.
After we moved into our current house I encouraged Jude to play independently in our new fenced in back yard. He struggled with “what to do” for weeks. I bought new outdoor toys, tried to initiate new games and we even added a play set but he would typically only last about 10 minutes before he was bored and wanted to come inside to play a game or watch a show.
Over the next several months I remained persistent in teaching Jude the art of creative, free play. During the cold winter months I heavily relied on Legos to help inspire his free play. We limited screen time (tv, computer, video games, etc) and whenever possible I removed myself from the room so as not to be a distraction. I found that giving him a safe space where he felt in control sparked his imagination and enabled him to play without a lot of need for interaction on my part.
As the days grew longer and the warm sun pushed away the winter chill I immediately rushed him outside so he could explore a new world of imaginative play. The addition of a new neighbor boy about his age didn’t hurt either. He will now spend endless hours outside playing without much direction from me. I remain within close proximity so I know that everyone is safe but I give him space which has really opened up his ability to play freely. Now he asks to play outside as soon as we walk in the door from school and doesn’t come in until it’s time for dinner.
Scheduled activities are fun but I want my children to just be kids. I’ve read that children who lack the opportunity for free, unstructured play are more prone to have stress and anxiety. Kids shouldn’t be stressed or anxious. What happened to the “care-free” days of our youth?
I want my kids to feel free to explore the world around them.
To see the beauty in the simple parts of life.
To slow down and enjoy life for what it is.
To grow and develop in a way that is unique to them and no one else.
I believe free play is important for my kids so I’m making a conscious effort to schedule time in our hectic lives for free, unstructured play.