If you take a walk around the neighborhood, you’ll notice the absence of children playing. Many of them are in school, but even on weekends you may find yourself asking where the kids are. Growing up, you may remember playing with neighborhood friends after school, but that’s been replaced with after-school programs and video games inside.
Unstructured play time for kids is a thing of the past and that’s unfortunate. Kids need to create and build things; they have to pretend they’re superheroes, and work out feelings of anger, fear, and stress from their everyday world. You may hear them mimic dad or mom to work out dilemmas they don’t understand. Through play, they learn to share and follow rules. When you ask children what makes them feel happiest, they’ll tell you playing with siblings or friends. Playtime helps kids build confidence.
The beginning of the school year is stressful and it’s structure leaves less time for free play. From school many children go to daycare, which is again structured and planned. Some children are active in organized sports and, although this has benefits, it’s not free play time. Pediatricians and parents are seeing levels of anxiety and depression increase. There is less room for kids to be kids and children of “hovering parents” are more likely to have of anxiety and depression.
Children need to learn the social skills required for school, but they also need “down time” to pretend and play. Without this time, children become lethargic, passive, and withdraw.
Your child’s emotional well-being will be greatly improved with these five tips:
- Allow your child time to be bored. In a world where business and productivity have become keys to success, change your perspective. It is not your job to entertain your child every second of the day. They don’t need electronics – they need to use their imagination and play.
- Have a trunk filled with props for pretending. Old dresses, jewelry, fireman hats, robot gear…use your imagination to fill the trunk.
- Your child needs space away from you. Let your child play outside your backyard. Kids need to explore, and they need to be in nature. Hovering over them interrupts their play.
- Involve neighbor children. Lecturing your child about being a good sport or praising them will never influence them as strongly as a friend playing with them.
- Create a space for free play. The messier your home, the more likely your child is to have free play. Crayons, paper, play-doh, building sets, childproof scissors, glue, and craft items allow your child to create and play. A glamorous house is wonderful, but it does not raise confident kids.
As the school year begins so does routine and order, and that’s important for your child’s security. However, save some time for your child to be a child and play.