We are overwhelmed with choices when it comes to activities for our kids. We’re told they have to do swimming lessons for safety, dance lessons for discipline, tennis for hand-eye coordination, soccer for teamwork and art classes for creativity. On top of that, their friends are doing gymnastics, Taekwondo, going to Spanish classes and learning piano…and they’re not even five. Given the pressure to enrol in everything, it’s easy to forget the importance of unstructured play – time for your kids to explore, get dirty and be free.
With screens and extracurricular activities taking up so much space in our kids’ lives, it’s more important than ever for them to get outside and play with sticks and dirt, climb a tree and face plant while practising cartwheels. Our challenge as parents is to avoid the urge to plan every hour of their day and give them the space and time they need for unstructured play.
Unstructured play is essential for healthy development and is a source of great joy for kids and their parents. It encourages children to use their creativity and imaginations and helps them solve problems, build confidence and develop friendships. It allows them to move at their own pace, explore their surroundings and discover their passions and preferences. In a world where there is increasing pressure for kids to perform in structured activities, child-driven play is a great outlet for kids to relieve stress and regulate their emotions.
Will they get grazed knees and bruises from climbing trees and doona surfing down the staircase? Absolutely. Will they get a snotty nose and worms from sharing fun times with friends? Maybe.