Every summer of my childhood, a scenario would repeat itself. On the final day of school I would watch, hour-by-hour, as the clock ticked down to the end of the day and the beginning of summer vacation. When the bell finally rang, I would jump out of my seat and run towards freedom from schoolwork, from schedules, and from teachers telling me what to do. After all, summer vacation meant plenty of free time to play with my friends!
Little did I know then that the summers I spent playing probably helped me to do better at school. Not to mention in all aspects of my personal life as well.
A recent article published in The Atlantic makes the case that free play is key to your kids’ education:
Unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health.
Kids know intuitively that play time is essential. Many teachers and parents also understand that it’s crucial for a child’s proper development. And increasingly, science is supporting this argument.
For example, The Atlantic article refers to studies stating that free unstructured play helps children develop self-regulation skills [more about that here], which helps them calm themselves and focus in class.
We know that both structured activities and free play are essential for kids’ proper development. But times have changed and for so many of us, with both parents working, there is often no other option but to program children with camps and activities during the summer. So how can we make sure that our kids get their unstructured time?
Here are some suggestions:
- Make frequent trips to the playground and let your kids take risks
- Visit farms, forests, and ravines where kids can explore nature
- Become a play angel so your kids will have a safe environment for kid-led play
- Choose a camp that values free play and discovery time for kids
- Start a Parent Club with a group of friends
- Make sure evenings and weekends include lots of downtime.