A lot of parents feel that they have to structure every moment of their child’s life in order to maximize learning. They fill their kids’ days with projects, crafts, sports, and lessons. While these things have their place, it’s important that we never forget the benefits of unstructured time.
Unstructured play is usually more physical. When kids are given the opportunity to run around and play in whatever manner they please, they tend to incorporate more movement. If you were to plan an activity or lesson, it would likely involve a lot of sitting still. Kids have sedentary lifestyles these days, so they need all the physical activity they can get.
Unstructured play lets them learn in whatever way their brains need. Kids are naturally curious. They want to touch, see, smell and even taste everything around them. You may think that your craft project is exposing them to something new (and it may be), but it may not be what their brains want at that moment. Only they know.
Unstructured play teaches kids social skills. It teaches kids how to work collaboratively, how to share with one another and work together. They get to engage with other children and create emotional connections to their peers. These relationships are different than they would create with supervising adults. Yes, there will be conflicts, but that’s part of growing up.
Most importantly, unstructured time lets children exercise their imaginative and creative muscles. These skills are tough to build when we’re older, so they have be worked on at a young age. Playing pretend as a spaceman or princess helps them build empathy and learn how other people feel. It teaches how to combine unlikely things, make comparisons, and ultimately solve problems.
This all isn’t to say that your kids should never have structured play. Not at all. The trick is to find a balance. A craft, cooking activity, or board game is great every once in a while. Kids need that too. But make sure to clear their schedules for some time every day where they can lead the play.
This is especially important for school aged kids who only have a few hours of unstructured time each day. It’s best to let the school lead the structure and give the rest of the time to your kids.
Do you make sure your kids get unstructured play time each day? How much do you think is appropriate?
Written by Karen Barski, BSN, RN, Mother of five, Certified Infant Care Specialist & Instructor, & Inventor of the Woombie Baby Swaddle
Karen has been an RN for 22 years, and has worked in many different nursing roles. As a Certified Infant Care Specialist, Karen counsels thousands of families yearly on a multitude of issues relating to pregnancy and infancy. Also, as a mother of five, she has invaluable experience and tips to share.
Since 2007, Karen’s company, KB Designs, has invented a line of signature baby swaddle products that have helped parents easily transition their new babies from womb to home. There are multiple designs and sizes so that babies can enjoy the comfort and security of the Woombie up until the time they begin to roll.
Each product has been created and designed by Karen because of a need she identified in her life with her five children. With convenience, safety, and fashion in mind, KB Designs has helped over a million babies and counting!
For more information, visit www.woombie.com.
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