There have been a lot of studies supporting the idea that playing is essential to healthy childhood development. The generation before mine frequently bemoans the fact that today’s kids are glued to the television rather than romping around outside playing impromptu games of tag and soccer, and this complaint is probably a fair one. However, the reason today’s kids have become dependent on technology (whether it’s a television show or a Playstation) is because their parents don’t encourage unstructured play time.
To be fair, a true unstructured play time may involve no parental intervention. However, if you’re looking for a little less Lord of the Flies and a little more kids playing catch, parental intervention is definitely necessary. So how can you support your child’s play time?
Limit the Tech
I enjoy watching some television to unwind after a long day, and I’m definitely not alone in this sentiment. The problem is that sometimes, technology can get out of control, especially as it becomes increasingly portable. To unplug your kids, then, is going to take some work. Keep all portable technology in a central location, perhaps in a basket in the living room near the television, and you will be able to monitor usage more easily. Set a limit on the amount of television that can be watched or the amount of electronic game playing that can go on.
But I’m BOOOOOORED
Just taking away the technology is probably not going to be enough. While the vast majority of families do have plenty of things available to facilitate a well-rounded play time, the biggest problem is making sure these items are accessible. If the hockey net is buried in the back of the garage under a stack of deck chairs, your kids won’t be able to access it. Make sure, then, that anything your kids might want to access is within easy kid reach, or make yourself available to help dig it out.
Get It Together
Along similar lines, it can be frustrating for kids to decide to play a game of baseball, only to find out that a glove is missing. Try to group all the supplies needed for an activity together. Big plastic bins labeled with markers can be a great tool.
Of course, not all unstructured play has to take place outside or involve sports. Some kids really enjoy building with Legos or playing with a dollhouse. This kind of imaginative play is just as important as playing sports. Rather than buying the latest video game for your child’s next birthday, head to your local hobby and craft mart and pick out something that involves a little more hands-on creativity.
What are some other tips you have for supporting play time?