Who are the people behind Future Stars? Meet Charlie VanDercook

We are excited to bring you inspiring interviews with some of our key family members! To kick off our interview series, we’re talking to the patriarch of it all, Co-founder Charlie VanDercook.


On any given day during the summers, Charlie can be seen playing tennis with a 7 year old, jumping into a 4 v 4 soccer game, challenging a 14 year old to a push up competition, or simply introducing himself to kids at all of our locations. What is not seen by everyone, is that Charlie has already paddle-boarded for an hour before camp and will go for a mountain bike ride after all the kids go home. His love for sports and physical activities is contagious but even more remarkable is his positive outlook and encouragement to the children.

Youth athletics brings in adults from a variety of backgrounds. From former athletes to educators, you’ll find a winning array of stories when you speak to coaches, staff members, directors and anyone else who has anything to do with helping young people develop their athletic talents. With that in mind, we wanted to know a little bit about Charlie’s background and how he ended up with Future Stars.

On his own background in sports, Charlie said, “I grew up playing all kinds of sports as a kid.” After trying a lot of different sports, he eventually focused on tennis. He played one year of college tennis and spent one season on the 1976 WATCH circuit.

When asked what drew him back to youth sports as an adult, Charlie told us, “I grew up playing tennis and became a tennis instructor. Teaching and coaching kids was a big part of my day and I gravitated to the students.” He went on to add, “I guess I’ve always been a kid myself and love playing games, and I brought that love of the game (tennis) to my junior students in the way of games.”

Charlie’s career didn’t stop at being an instructor – obviously. “I was Director of Tennis at a club in Lake Placid, New York.” While there, he directed the junior tennis camp, a junior program, and organized tennis tournaments. Following this, he was hired as Director of Tennis at the Banksville Racquet Club in Banksville, New York. “The biggest part of our business and our emphasis was on the junior program, where there were 350 participants. I was good at relating to kids, and they liked being with me. I made tennis fun and had aptitude as a teacher.” Between his own athletic background, instructing and directing, Charlie was well-versed in youth sports when he co-founded Future Stars!

Working in youth sports takes a certain love of the game. It also requires adults to consider what they think children can learn from athletics. We asked Charlie, what he thinks children can get out of youth sports?  He said, “Children learn life lessons and most everything about life through playing sports. The fun of striving and competing, and loving the process.” Our Co-founder of Future Stars knows kids can also take away, “The satisfaction of trying your best, whether you win or lose. Learning it takes hard work and tons of practice to achieve goals. They learn to respect the game, the coach, their teammates and opponents.”

The children aren’t the only ones who are reaping the benefits out of sports, and out of Future Stars. Charlie notes, “The biggest reward that I’ve received in my life is that after running Future Stars for 36 years is that, I’ve come into the second generation of campers. Parents that attended are now sending their kids to the camp, because they love Future Stars and they fondly remember their experiences.” And incredibly, Charlie not only remembers these campers’ names after all of these years, but he can tell stories about them from 30 years ago, both on and off the tennis court.

What he’s found particular gratifying is, “The kids I coached come to see me after 20 years, and show me pictures of their kids – relating their stories and giving me credit for shaping their success.” From his early days as a tennis player to inspiring generations of children, Charlie VanDercook has dedicated his personal and professional life to the game!


Image Credit:  Charlie VanDercook

Young couple: man and  woman run together on a sunset on lake coast.  Silhouette.

5 Ways To Keep Fit Between Seasons

You train hard for most of the year, work real hard on the field and end up in pretty good shape as a result. Then all of a sudden it’s the off-season and the urge to eat junk food whilst binge-watching  movies or television shows is strong, so you’ll need to work hard to stay in shape before the next season kicks off.

Why Stay in Shape?

Having to start from scratch, fitness and ability-wise is not easy, and it means a lot more work for you in the long-term. It’s almost unavoidable that your skills will suffer somewhat during the off-season simply because you won’t be playing as much, but that doesn’t mean your stamina and fitness levels need to drop as well.

How to Stay in Shape

If it’s the thrill of the game that keeps you playing, general fitness training may not be your bag. Here are some tips to help you get started with a manageable fitness routine between seasons:

1. Do it With Friends

The absolute easiest way to make sure you stay health between seasons is to get your friends involved. Make a pact with your team that you’ll all stay in shape and then commit to meeting every few days for some exercise during the off-season.

2. Go Running

Running is a great way to stay in shape. You don’t need much in the way of special gear, it doesn’t have to happen according to a strict schedule and you can listen to music while you do it. Thanks to GPS trackers and phone apps it’s now easier than ever to track exactly how well you’re doing. Why not challenge your team mates to see who can improve their running skills the most before the next season starts?

3. Lift Some Weights

If you want to be better, stronger and more successful, weight training might be just the activity you need. Weight lifting can help you to build your muscle tone, improve your strength and increase your stamina. To get a decent full body workout, you’ll need a gym membership at a facility with a decent weights section.

4. Ditch the Car

A simple way of staying healthy on a daily basis is to simply ditch the car. Instead of catching rides or taking the bus, use your journey time as a chance to exercise. Biking is a great way to improve stamina, burn calories, and build up a sweat. If you don’t have a bike, walking a few miles each day could help you to stay in shape.

5. Don’t Overindulge

You might be able to enjoy sleeping in and worry less about your weight during off-season, but that doesn’t mean you should give up entirely. If you want to stay in shape, it’s important to keep eating healthy. Just because you don’t have a game this weekend, it doesn’t mean you can eat ice-cream for breakfast. Keep eating healthy, protein-rich foods full of vitamins and minerals. It’s also important to prioritize rest, it’s all too easy to get into bad habits when it comes to sleep. Try to make sure you’re getting enough rest even when you do have the occasional late night. Your body is a temple and all that.

Rear view of multiethnic football players with coach standing in the front

Parent or Coach? What Happens When You’re Both?

Parental involvement is key at every level. At school. Obviously, at home. And, when it comes to sports, too. But, what happens when you move from the sidelines and onto the field? That’s right – you’re the coach and a parent at the same time. Not only are you rooting for your child, but you have a whole team of children to help, too. Understanding how this balancing act plays out on the field, and at home is all part of being both parent and coach.

Playing Favorites, or Not

It’s tempting to put your child first. That’s what you do all day. So it only makes sense that you keep going during the one hour you’re at practice or at a game. Right? You need to put the starters on the field, and your child is the natural choice. After all, you’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that they’re the best. Now you get to let them show it. The problem is, you’re looking at your child’s ability in a completely biased way. You see your child as perfect, even if they’re not. It’s totally understandable. That’s what parents do – they see their children as stars.

Now it’s time to take a step back. No one is saying that you bench your child just because you’re also the coach. It’s not a matter of going completely one way or the other. It’s a matter of being fair. This is a shining opportunity to teach your child a lesson, and act as a role model. That said, it’s completely possible that your child won’t understand when you put a teammate in the game. Instead of ignoring the situation, explain to your child that it’s your job to give everyone (this includes your child and everyone else on the team) a fair chance. This means no playing favorites, and it also means not doing the opposite. Assure your child that you won’t purposefully bench them just because you’re mom or dad.

Keeping the Team Separate

Your child doesn’t have your full attention when you’re playing the role of coach. It’s just a fact. You’ve got a group of kids to help, and that means focusing on each one of them. But, when you leave the field, or the court, or wherever else you’re playing, the attention needs to go back to your child. Leaving team talk at practice shows your child that you’re a parent first, and a coach second.

It’s perfectly okay to come home and tell the rest of the family about a game, or what a great job your child did. The important part here is to keep the focus on your child.

When Your Child Makes a Mistake

You haven’t been playing favorites, and are pretty proud of yourself. But, then it happens – your child makes a major mistake. There are three options when this happens. The first is to forget you’re on the field, go into mom or dad mode and shout something along the lines of, “You’re grounded”.  Okay, so that won’t work.

The second option is to flip back into mom or dad mode and rescue your child. Again, that won’t work either. The third option is to treat your child like you would any other team member. When another child storms off the field after missing a goal and screams, “That’s not fair!” at the player who stopped the ball, you talk to them about good sportsmanship. The same should go for your child, too.

Talking to Other Parents

Even if you’re the most equitable coach ever, some parents may still think you’re playing favorites. When your child plays for 31 minutes and their teammate only gets 30 minutes of game time, the teammate’s parent may say that you’re not being fair.

Create a set of fair play and fair treatment rules that you expect yourself and all of the team to follow. Explain these to the other parents, and invite them to ask questions, if they need to. Along with this, consider asking some of the other parents for their help. An assistant coach (or two) is always appreciated. And, with a few other moms or dads helping out, no one can say that you’re playing favorites.

Balancing your roles as parent and coach is a challenge. You want to be there for your child, but you also need to be there for all of the team. Yes, it can be stressful taking on both jobs at once. But, the rewards are worth it. Not only will you get to spend extra time with your child, but you get to act as a role model too!

People Friendship Togetherness Pizza Activity Youth Culture Concept

5 Reasons to Have the Team Over

Having an sports team squished into your living room might not be your idea of a dream evening, but it could be just what the team needs.

Sports teams are about way more than just sports. As a team player, you know this, of course you do, but are you putting it into action? Are you using your time and energy to build strong relationships both during and after games? If not, it might be time you invited the whole team over for pizza and a movie. Here’s why:

It’s All About the Bonding

Strong teams are built on strong friendships. With team members coming and going over the years, it’s important to make sure the team gels well even when key players have moved on. The best way to do this is to invest time in getting to know each and every player. Spending time as a team can help you all to get to know each other and build strong bonds which will make you an even stronger team next time you’re on the field.

It’s Extra Curricular

Ok, you don’t need to do it. You can see people at practice and still enjoy a healthy friendship, but it might be worth putting in that little bit of extra effort. It could give you an edge over the other teams. The team who eats pizza together, scores together… or something like that. Go the extra mile for your team by being the first to host a get together. It could be a pizza night or more of a party, whatever floats your boat. Just as long as it’s your team socializing together, it fits the bill.

It’s a Bit of Light Relief

You know what’s stressful? Sports season. There are well-earned scores, near misses and plenty of defeats. Every team member is under pressure to perform their best at every opportunity. On top of all that, there are school deadlines, part-time jobs and family commitments. It isn’t easy being a young sports player. Adding some team social dates to your diary gives everyone the chance to relax. It gives the team a chance to laugh about the near misses, celebrate the victories and talk each other up.

You’ll Get to Know Your Team Better

You know which player is great on defense and who can run faster than anyone else, but how well do you really know your teammates? This is your chance to get up close and personal. Find out what makes them tick. Let them get to know you better. This will strengthen your relationship both during and after game time.

It’ll Get the Ball Rolling

If regular team social events aren’t common, it’s up to you to change that. Take the initiative. Invite everybody, host the first event and show them how it’s done. Then pass on the baton. It doesn’t always have to happen at your house. Team gatherings can happen anywhere, but this is your chance to get everybody involved. Make it fun and the next one will plan itself. Go on, what are you waiting for?


The How-To’s of Team Bonding

ten There’s no “I” in team. Right? Whether you’re a parent, a coach or a player, building a bond between team members is absolutely essential. Not only does team bonding foster good sportsmanship, but it also helps the players to develop their social skills. Along with these benefits, bonding brings the team together and helps them to act as a unit – instead of as individual players who happen to be on the same field or court. So, how can you help the team bond? Check out these ways for bringing the group together and creating that much-needed sense of unity.

Take the Pressure Off

There’s plenty of pressure on the field. When it comes to team bonding activities, taking some of the tension away and making things fun is key. Sure, when there’s a game, meet, match or tournament they focus on doing their best because they are competitors. That doesn’t mean it’s compete, compete, compete all of the time.

Team bonding activities create a sense of togetherness, in a competition-free environment. Let the kids relax, work together, and forget about the win. Make fun the name of the game during bonding activities. This may mean playing silly games (not necessarily the sport itself) or trying activities that encourage socialization over sports. Encourage the kids to let loose and put getting to know and trust each other over anything else.

Mix Things Up

Cliques are common in youth sports. They are also major issues in other areas (such as school). Don’t assume that just because all of the kids are on the same team that they are in the same athletic clique. Team-building and bonding should never equal creating an exclusive clique. You’re helping the team to gel, get along and work together.

It’s also likely that at least a few of the kids have come to the team as friends (or have become fast friends after joining the team). If there are a few mini-cliques on the team, help the players to mix things up and start socializing with some of the other kids (meaning the ones who aren’t in their clique). Let’s say three of them consider themselves best friends. While they’re nice or pleasant when it comes to interacting with the other team members on the soccer team, they mostly keep to their own little clique. This behavior makes bonding as a team difficult, if not impossible.

So, what do you do? You could try a team relay race, splitting the mini-clique up and putting them on teams with kids who they usually don’t talk to. By mixing them in with the other players, you’re helping everyone get to know each other – and reducing the risk of isolation.

Set a Goal

Working to reach a goal is a constructive way to bring the team together, without emphasizing direct competition. Technically the kids are competing. But, they’re not competing against each other and they’re not competing against another team. What they are competing against is an obstacle – an obstacle that they must all overcome together.

Whatever your team bonding activity of choice is, you can find a way to set a goal. Whether the team is going on a scavenger hunt or solving a puzzle together, there’s an objective for them to reach together. The key here is that the players work together. Not only are they learning how to get along with each other, but they are building the ability to take in different perspectives, and respect other people’s opinions. When they do reach that all-important goal, they’ll know that they did it together. That feeling of togetherness will continue both on and off of the field.

Building a team means more than just training or doing drills. It’s about coming together and creating a sense of unity. Taking the pressure off, getting rid of the cliques, and setting goals all add to the experience, and help the team to connect in a way that goes beyond the game.


Mo’ne Davis

In 2014, Mo’ne Davis was named Sports Illustrated Kids’, “Sports Kid of the Year”. The then 13-year-old was already a Little League star when she was awarded this major honor. Born on June 24, 2001, Mo’ne’s known for the game of baseball. She’s one of the most well-known Little League pitchers, and the first African-American girl to ever play in the Little League World Series.

An Athlete From the Start

Mo’ne grew up with her mother and stepfather in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even though she’s well-known as a baseball player, her pitching arm was first noticed when she was playing football! While playing football with her brother, and a few other family members, program director of the Marion Anderson Recreation Center in South Philadelphia, Steve Bandura, caught sight of the her amazing ability to throw a ball.

But, don’t think that Mo’ne went straight from tossing around the football to pitching in the Little League World Series. Before becoming a child baseball star, Mo’ne tried basketball out. As a point guard, Mo’ne quickly became the best player on the team. Oh, and she was the only girl on the team too!

Becoming a Baseball Superstar

Along with basketball, Mo’ne also began playing several other sports. She played soccer and (obviously) baseball. As a pitcher, the then 13-year-old could throw a fastball at seventy miles per hour. Wow! Not only did she excel at baseball, but she was also an honor role student at school.

When her team, the Taney Dragons, made it to the Little League World Series, Mo’ne helped lead them to a 4-0 victory. This put her in the public eye, and showed the world that baseball is not just a boy’s sport. She became an instant celebrity, inspiring children, and adults alike.

Hoop Dreams

Even though Mo’ne is known for her pitching skills, baseball isn’t her only focus. She’s putting basketball in the number one sporting spot. As a high school student, the baseball champ is looking forward to a future as a WNBA star! But, don’t think that this amazing athlete is relying on her big baseball win for anything.

Instead of playing for her school’s team, Mo’ne is concentrating her basketball efforts on the AAU Philly Triple Threat team. She realizes that there are lots of girls playing AAU basketball who are better than her – and, that’s why she works so hard. Yes, she might have won fame for her fast-pitch. But, Mo’ne doesn’t have plans to return to the game. That doesn’t mean she’ll never pick up a baseball again. Instead, her plans seem to focus more on basketball than anything else. Before heading to the WNBA, Mo’ne has dreams to attend college. Her top pick is the University of Connecticut, where she wants to play for the UConn Huskies.

Future Forward

As a pioneer in women’s sports (or rather, sports in general), Mo’ne Davis is one to watch. Since her Little League win she’s gone on a press tour, signed more autographs than you can probably imagine, met some serious sports royalty (basketball star Stephen Curry, football star Russell Wilson and tennis legend Billie Jean King) and even met President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. Mo’ne might just be doing what she enjoys, but she is also a major inspiration for a lot of people. She’s showing girls that they can do whatever they want and be whoever they are. In a boy-dominated league (Little League), she’s one girl who truly broke down barriers.

Mo’ne Davis might still be a teenager, but she’s already released a memoir (2015’s “Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name”), and launched a shoe collection. Partnering with M4D3 (Make A Difference Everyday), the basketball player helped to create a line of sneakers for kids and women. The proceeds of the sneaker sales are set to go to Plan International USA’s, Because I Am A Girl initiative.

Baseball star, basketball player, celebrity and inspiration. Mo’ne Davis is a young woman who we’ll be seeing much, much more of!

Photo Credit:  Disney | ABC Television Group (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Children playing in school gym

Winter Workouts: Helping Your Child Stay Active When It Gets Cold

The temperature’s dropping and heading outside to play soccer or softball is a total no-go. When the weather won’t cooperate, getting out and active becomes much more of a challenge. Your usually active kiddo is suddenly sidelined by the snow and freezing cold. Now what? Well, you could let them spend the chilly months sitting on the couch playing video games or scrolling through your smart phone. Or, you could check out these winter workout ideas!

The Outside Indoors

Some of your child’s favorite physical activities can happen both outside and inside. How? Even though you might take your little swimmer to the community pool for aqua club practice in the summer or take your shortstop to the school’s baseball diamond when the weather’s warm, you don’t have to end the activities when it’s too cold outside to play.

There are plenty of indoor options for typical outdoor sports. Your community center or the area high school might have an indoor pool that hosts lessons or open swim sessions. Sports complexes and recreation centers may have indoor batting cages or soccer arenas for not-so-nice weather practice and games.

Of course, you can also sign your child up for an indoor winter sport. Basketball, indoor soccer, wrestling and gymnastics are all examples of ‘winter’ sports that kids can play inside.

Snowy Fun

If your child isn’t looking for an organized sport, but still wants to keep in shape, the winter weather does offer some imaginative opportunities. As long as it’s not too cold out, and you limit the amount of time that your child spends outdoor, and you make sure that they’re dressed for the weather, they can get a winter workout outside.

Use the snow as added resistance and jog around the backyard, make snow people or snowball obstacles for your child to race around, or go for a more traditional winter-activity such as sledding (that walk back up the sledding hill is much more of a workout than you probably think).

Don’t forget about the winter sports that actually use the weather to your child’s advantage. Skiing, snowboarding, outdoor ice hockey and ice skating will all keep your athlete active and in the game.

In-Home Options

You can’t get to the local gym and the weather is way too fierce to send your child outside for a run around the yard. Does that mean exercise is out? No way! There are plenty of ways for your young athlete to workout at home. Obviously, there are weights to lift, jumping jacks to do, and pushups to keep your child in shape. But, what else? Get creative with at-home workouts, making it fun (and surprisingly interesting) for your child.

Turn your living room or play room into an obstacle course. Push two chairs near one another, hang a towel on top (going from seat to seat) to make an army crawl obstacle. Line up chairs to make it more like a tunnel crawl. You can also add obstacles to jump over, run around, or hop through. If you don’t have the room to make a full-blown obstacle course, clear some space and turn on your child’s favorite music. Dance and creative movement are easy ways to get active, and develop motor skills such as balance, coordination, and strength. It’s also an awesome aerobic workout that can improve your child’s stamina.

From doing traditionally outdoor activities inside to snow-packed action (and much, much more), your child’s winter training doesn’t have to suffer just because the weather won’t cooperate. Try switching up the workouts, spending time both outside and inside. This keeps your child excited to exercise and gets them to look forward to the different kinds of physical activities. If you’re still not sure which workouts are best for your child, ask your child’s coach for ideas that work with the specific sport. This makes for a seamless transition from season to season.

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Communication is Key: The Parent-Coach Relationship

Your schedule is filled with parent-teacher conferences, and your inbox is packed with classroom newsletter emails. You’ve got the school thing covered when it comes to constant communication. But, what about your child’s coach? The parent-coach relationship is crucial to your child’s success. Understanding the what’s, when’s and why’s of communicating is the first step in developing this all-important relationship.

What Is Parent-Coach Communication?

Okay, so this one seems pretty self-explanatory. Obviously, parent-coach communication equals parents communicating with coaches, and vice-versa. That said, there are many different ways to communicate. The forms that communication takes include both in-person discussions as well as other, less face to face time. Phone calls, texts and emails are all ways that parents and coaches can connect, discuss the child’s progress and alert each other if there’s a problem or an issue.

Keep in mind, there’s a major difference between communicating with the coach and telling the coach how to do their job. If you have a question or you are unsure about why the coach made a specific decision – ask. Come from a place of understanding and wanting the best for your child, and not from a place of thinking that you know best. Let the coaches do their job and give them the chance to explain the why’s and what’s to you. While it’s perfectly okay to ask, telling and sounding accusatory won’t foster positive communication. You want to open up a helpful dialogue, and not alienate the coach.

When Does or Should Communication Take Place?

Communication can happen almost anytime. It can be in-depth (such as during a meeting or parent-teacher conference type of discussion) or less formal (such as in passing), “Great job coach!”. In-depth conversations and discussions that focus on a problem or serious issue typically require some sort of scheduling. Instead of waiting to talk to the coach at half-time or immediately after a game, call, email or text the coach and ask when they are free to meet with you. Make sure that you both have enough time to make the appointment worthwhile. This may mean blocking out a half hour or more in both schedules.

Less in-depth types of communication can happen through text or email, or surrounding game/practice times. Let’s say you want to know how long next weekend’s soccer tournament will be. Simply send an email and wait for a reply. Or, you can catch the coach after practice and ask your question.

You may also want to ask the coach what their preferred method of communication is before assuming that it’s okay to text or email any time that you want. Along with this, ask the coach when the best time is to contact them. Some coaches also have other jobs or have family commitments. If your child’s school soccer coach is also the social studies teacher, it’s not likely that they’ll pick up a phone call at 10 a.m. (or any time during the school day).


Mad young woman with steam coming out of ears on textured concrete background. Anger issues concept

Managing Heightened Emotions at Game Time

Everyone in the stands knows Danielle is one of the best basketball guards among all middle schools in the region. The desire within Danielle to be the best in hoops may also have jumped over into the young girl’s overall attitude. At first, her parents paid little attention to the occasional verbal outburst at officials and other players on her team.  However, the outward examples of her frustration are increasing and more noticeable to her coach, teammates and fans. What can be done to address a situation such as Danielle’s?


In his book, Whose Game is it, Anyway?, Dr. Richard Ginsburg devotes a chapter on the subject of emotional frustrations exhibited by participants in youth athletics. The author suggests parents should be very careful in their first approach to the situation. Do not make an immediate knee-jerk reaction. This can be difficult advice to follow as parents are themselves sometimes wrapped up in the game’s moment. Watching a child fail because of a referee’s decision or a mistake by the child’s teammate can cause a natural frustration for the parents as well. Ginsburg says it best, “The first reaction is no reaction.” In other words, parents need to take a deep breath and not add fuel to the fire.


After a child exhibits this frustration the parents must be prepared for what the athlete’s coach may do next. If it’s the first – or the second or the third – instance where this occurred, parents must accept a coach’s game-time decision. Whether the coach sits the child out for a few minutes, a quarter, or the rest of the game parents need to maintain their composure. Yelling from the stands will just make the matter worse. The time to address the coach’s reaction is not at the end of the game, either. Contact the coach the following day and set up a meeting to discuss the situation.


The advice from Ginsburg’s book is to take a ‘calm but firm’ approach with the young athlete. A good opening question may be as simple as, “What went through your mind to cause you to react in such a way?” Calmly asked it is immediately letting the child to explain his/her actions. Self-control is not an learned overnight.

“Without patience and willingness to provide explanations, setting firm limits can be meaningless and even destructive,” warns Ginsburg. In other words, parents need to have the open line of communication before determining what methods of correction to use.  This is also where the meeting with the coach comes to play. Consultation between the coach and parents can generate an effective way to correct the displays of frustration.


Whatever steps to correct a child’s temper and frustration during a sporting event are decided upon, it is extremely important for the parents not to lose sight of the desired end result. As in many other facets of raising children, the old saying ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ aptly fits. There may be ‘instant oatmeal’ but no one has figured out a way to package an ‘instant solution’ for a child’s emotions. If a child’s frustration bubbles over as a result of self-pressure it is going to take patience from parents and coaches in order for an effective change to occur.


The Importance of Scheduling in Free Play

Today’s parents – and kids – are busy, busy, busy. There are schedules to be followed, clubs to be attended, and homework assignments to be completed. But free play is important too, so how can you schedule some in?

Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, at times it can be downright difficult. You want the best for your kids, you want them to grow up happy and confident and you want them to look back on their childhood with a sense of wonder. Experts often stress the importance of free play, but how can you allow for it in the modern world?

When you’re busy ferrying your kids around their after-school activities and clubs, it can be almost impossible to find the time to spend doing nothing. If you work long hours and want to soak up as much time with your kids as possible, you may find the weekends fill up pretty quickly too.

The Benefits of Free Play

There are many benefits to letting your kids take the lead for a little bit. Free play means that kids are free to play whatever and however they want. There are no rules, they don’t have to play in a certain way, and they can change what they are doing as often as they like. Free play allows children to develop a sense of independence, to develop problem-solving skills, and to learn  valuable skills which prevent boredom. If done in a group, free play allows your child to hone their social skills, to learn about conflict resolution, and to perfect negotiation skills.

3 Tips for Scheduling in Free Play

Now you know why it’s important, let’s look at how exactly you can fit free play into your lives:

1. Make it Routine

It sounds almost counter-productive, doesn’t it? Scheduling in free play surely isn’t free play? After all, if it’s scheduled, it can’t really be free. Well, yes, actually, it can. And if the rest of your week runs to a tight schedule, you might need to schedule in free play. And that’s fine. By including free play as a part of your regular routine, you give this important activity the time and commitment necessary. You could schedule free play for a couple of hours on a weekend afternoon or take a night off from your commitments each week to indulge in some free play. Whenever you decide to do it, make it routine.

2. Do it with Friends

Kids love free play, they can get completely and utterly immersed in a totally made up world with their friends. And, whilst the kids are distracted, you can enjoy some time with your friends as well. You can be anywhere you want to be, a local park on a glorious summer day, bundled up in raincoats in a woodland forest in the pouring rain, or in the comfort of your own home. Let the kids go wild whilst you catch up with your friends. Time well spent.

3. Encourage it

Kids are easily distracted. You ask them to go outside and play, then stumble across them inside 30 minutes later engrossed in a game of pirates. It can be frustrating, but try to remember the benefits of free play. Of course, there is a time and a place for everything, and your new found love of free play is no excuse for being late for school. That said, however, if you have nowhere to be, allow your child to embrace free play.

Do your kids get to enjoy free play time each week?