While there is a lot of research to suggest child and parent play is important for the development of various mental, physical, and emotional aspects in a child, it has been found that it is equally important for children to have playtime on their own. Unstructured play that does not follow any rules or how-to-play guidelines enhances a child’s creativity and problem-solving skills.
Unstructured play also builds independence in children and helps them cope with anxiety. The next time you plan to buy toys online or in-shop, see if you can purchase some toys that will help your child indulge in some free play. It is important to encourage free playin your child, for research suggests that play is at the heart of every kind of learning. Free play among children is now not as popular as it used to be. There are multiple reasons for its decline – overprotective parents who are uneasy about children playing unsupervised on their own or want to maximize time with their children by playing with them. There is also an increase in screen time that robs children of time for free play.
You can start by encouraging your child’s free play activities. While all children engage in some amount of free play every day, your goal would be to increase this type of play vs other activities the child engages in on a day-to-day basis. The need for increasing free play is because of the steady decline in free play among children over the years due to various factors, and not for any other reason.You should avoid giving your child suggestions on how to improve their play or do it differently – this defeats the purpose of free play.
When purchasing toys, look for ones that are simple and open-ended, meaning toys that a child can use in a variety of imaginative ways than in a structured way. A sand-pit tool kit for example will allow the child to use the bucket, spade etc. in whatever way they want vs. a board game which has a structured way to play the game.
Children today have a problem with time. Their days are often packed with school, homework, and extracurricular activities to the point that there is hardly any time left for playing. One way to free up some time for your child is to schedule no more than one extracurricular activity per semester or year. Too many scheduled activities in a week will leave your child feeling exhausted. With no playtime or little energy for playtime, there is no outlet for stress and anxiety for your child.
Screen time robs your child of time for free play. Be mindful of how much time your child spends in front of a screen and set time limits if you must. TV can be addictive to children because they do not have to try to be entertained. Playing takes more effort in comparison though more rewarding.