Today’s crazy and highly competitive world has transformed what we do in our spare time. This has even gone as far as to impact what our kids do and are expected to get done with their days. Within the confines of school, with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, schools reduced the time that was once set aside for recess, creative arts, and physical education to focus on reading and math. Recess time has been reduced at all school levels. While obviously making time for knowledge is important, we are learning more than ever how play is important is to the mental and emotional development of each and every child.
College entrance requirements have put even more pressure on the need for heavy learning schedules and less free time to play. The result? Anxiety, stress, and depression.
Let’s Look At The Math
If you remove time from recess and creative arts you are limiting the amount of free, child-driven, playtime available to the average child/student. The importance of play in this equation is that it offers many different benefits that may protect children from the negative effects of pressure and stress. It just doesn’t add up to reduce playtime and expect children to be okay.
How Does Child-Driven, Child-Led Play Benefit The Participants?
The list is long and includes such things as:
– The development of imagination, dexterity, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength
– The conquering of fears, the building of confidence and resiliency
– The learning of working in groups, sharing, negotiating, resolving issues
– The building of decision-making skills
– The discovery of personal interests and the development of personal passions
– The ability to relieve stress productively
The Different Types of Play
Playtime is important in the early development of a child’s life. However, there are a few different types of play that provide different benefits for children. Here is a look at each of them.
Toys and Object Play
Babies use their sensory-motor skills to explore the properties of a toy. Preschool-age children develop abstract thought and concepts with a toy as well as learning to share and take turns.
Free play during recess helps children develop motor skills, prevent childhood obesity and build emotional intelligence. A playground slide helps to build confidence and games like tag teach children socio-emotional skills.
Outdoor play permits children to use all their senses to build skills such as spatial awareness and balance. It can also enhance a child’s attention span.
Young children learn to experiment with different social roles and learn to cooperate with pretend play. It encourages imagination, creativity and builds more complex negotiation, communication and language skills.
No Wonder They Get Stressed
By eliminating opportunities for children to play, unrestricted amongst themselves, many of these important skills and abilities do not develop early in life. Without them, children struggle as they grow into young adults who are stressed out about some of the most minor of things.
In other words, free play time provides children with a way to deal with issues in a sensible, logical manner instead of becoming anxious about their decision. The importance of play is obvious, it teaches skills that children may not pick up from any other source.
Remember The Sandbox and The Monkey Bars?
Imagine your childhood minus the internet. Recess was a break from class where you could get outside and play games with friends and classmates. You made plans for returning to those games and activities during lunch hour or after school.
Teams were formed, games were played – some of them invented on the spot – and allies or foes were quickly identified. You climbed playground equipment, played marbles, skipped rope and did all kinds of physical things that weren’t part of a PE class.
You made friends, created new worlds, solved problems and learned new things about yourself through free play. The skills you developed then you still have and you have enhanced them over the years. You know the importance of play in your life.
Let’s Bring Back Child Free Play
We know how important play is and would love to help you dream about how to design your project with that same imaginative play that you remember diving into as a child. We want to help kids be in a mental place where they will be inspired to play, carefree, for hours.
Here are some products that we recommend that will enhance child free play.
Have a budding musician or two in your group? This add-on feature includes several musical instruments that will encourage imagination, creativity and working as a team.
Play Systems For Infants (2 Years Old)
An imagination treehouse with added interactive features such as peek through panels, butterflies, and lady bugs make this play system great for creative play.
Play Systems for Ages 2 to 5 Years
Bigger slides, more tunnels, and equipment to ride on will give children plenty of reason to role play, share, take turns and make friends with this play system.