For the last five decades there has been a decline in the emphasis of children’s free time and active play. The results of this continual decline has already begun to show its adverse effects. Children who aren’t given ample amounts of free play time will grow in less confident and less happy adults. Think back to your own memories of playing freely as a child. For many of us we‘ll be able to clearly visualize running around our school’s playground after school let out; chasing each other in a game of tag or looking the best spot to dodge the seeker in a game of hide and seek. Others among us may remember gathering the neighborhood kids just to end up arguing over the rules of the sport game we were attempting to organize. Of course you had your share of responsibilities between school work and chores at home, but you also most likely got to experience the exhilaration of choice at an early age. Now think about your children’s situation and ask yourself, Do they have the same free play opportunities you had as a child? The most likely scenario is that they do not. Time for free play is often shirked in today’s face paced environment, although it really shouldn’t be. Kids work hard, they need a chance to wind down, explore, and feel empowered by their individuality and freedom of choice.
Kids Work & Play Needs Balance
There are tumultuous life long consequences for a child’s development when they aren’t given enough free play time. These consequences are more serious than most people come to realize and something the child will unfortunately have to face for the rest of their lives by no fault of their own. There is much research to back the assertion that free play time is absolutely vital to the proper development of a young child’s mind. In a recent publication by the American Journal of Play it was detailed just how much free play time has decreased and how it’s affecting our children. Depriving a child of ample free play time leads to a quick route towards:
- Increased Anxiety
- Feeling of Depression
- Decreased Attention Retentiveness
As an adult you most likely are engaged in work for a large portion of your week – generally speaking around 40 hours. We’re willing to bet that all this work can leave you feeling tired and make other tasks seem more daunting. Children also feel the weight of this responsibility with their school assignments and duties at home. Just as we need time to relax and unwind, so does your child. Kids work hard for their level of world experience and relative age; so we need to ensure they have the time to play hard too.
Who/What Has Stripped Down Free Play Time?
A big component that should be examined when inquiring as to what is causing this continual decline in free play time is adults’ efforts to maintain control over children’s activities. A psychologist will define free play as beginning through a child choosing to engage in play; this activity is individually directed and is the end mean or goal of moment as opposed to being a piece of an activity organized by an adult or caregiver. We get it, your child is highly important to you and you’re doing everything you can to ensure they’re safety. However, too tight a grip can and will be counterproductive when it comes to your child’s development. You’re child’s time for free play can be thought of as their practice space for what life will eventually present them with. Free play time provides children with important life experiences which helps them grow into happy confident adults
5 Ways Free Play Benefits Children
- Children will begin to develop and identify self-guided interests
- They will build up their decision making skills
- Children learn emotion management skills during free play (handling fear/anger if they arise)
- Play is a simple & effective source of happiness
- Free play allows children to socialize and develop closer friendships.
We’ve found that when parents are informed about the best practices for childhood development such as the importance of free play time they can reevaluate current priorities in their child’s best interest. A Child’s Academy is Alachua County’s top provider of preschool Gainesville programs and child care services. Kids work hard enough; bring back some free play! Contact us with any questions regarding our Gainesville child care programs, we work diligently to ensure a healthy balance of kids work and play time.