Benefits of Free Play for Children
“Children need to sit in their own boredom for the world to become quiet enough that they can hear themselves,” Dr. Vanessa Lapointe makes a deep meaningful point about the havoc that overscheduling can cause in our children’s lives. More and more research is being done into the importance of unstructured free play in a child’s mental well-being. In fact, it is now considered so important that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights has recognized play as a fundamental right of every child.
Free play essentially means allowing children to decide the rules of the game, so to say. It is driven by children, no adult supervision required. It means no interference in what the child is doing unless there is a real danger of someone getting hurt. But as parents, isn’t our job to ensure that our kids are getting the best opportunities for “useful” activities like an organised sport? Yes, but it is also our job to give them an environment in which they can fully thrive and explore all facets of their personalities.
Free play encourages creative problem-solving. Needless to say, when left on their own, children develop their imaginations and exercise their minds. Since free play enhances a child’s flexibility to adjust to constantly changing circumstances, the more your child is given free time, the more adaptable they become.
Play also enhances a child’s dexterity and physical skills, including fine and gross motor skills. They learn the limits of their own bodies by emulating others, or coming up with their own versions of “fun”.
Allowing kids to freely interact in a safe setting also helps develop their social skills. Children instinctively know how to make the most of unstructured playtime, just watch a group of kids in the park. Their games change as more players join or leave, sand can become a nest in one minute and turn into a fort or a lava monster the next. You can often see children becoming adept negotiators as they interact with viewpoints other than their own.
In fact, psychologists have found that even adults who participate in ‘playful play’ as a group tend to find better and more creative solutions to problems. So, in addition to maintaining a great bond with your children and promoting their development as healthy well-rounded individuals, you may find yourself improving too as you let your inner child free!
Of course, as they grow up, our children are going to have their own share of stressful schedules and overworked lives. Let’s not push adulthood on them. Let kids be kids. Don’t worry, they will not get left behind. In fact, allowing your kids some unstructured playtime may provide them with just the right skills to cope with the rat race successfully.
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