So much of our time now is already accounted for; a busy schedule of school, clubs, homework and sleeping doesn’t really leave time for much else. Free play should be a daily part of your child’s life.
You know that moment at the end of the day, once the dishes are all tidied away and all the work is done, where you finally sit down and do whatever you want? That’s your free time. As a parent, you probably spend it trying not to fall asleep because you’re so exhausted after a busy day, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
Kids need free time as well, time to go crazy, let their hair down and do whatever it is they think is fun. This is especially true after a long day of school. School is pretty structured, and the short breaks often aren’t really long enough for much free play. There’s barely time for a quick snack and then it’s back to the classroom again.
Sports clubs, music lessons and drama groups are great for your child and are no doubt providing heaps of benefits. But they too are structured. If you’re constantly ferrying your child between activities, then chances are your child’s “free time” is in the backseat of your car. It’s important to make sure they get to enjoy some free play too.
Free play is whatever your child wants it to be. It could mean running around the garden at full speed, playing an imagination game with friends, or climbing trees at the local park. Your child should be free to choose the activity. Here are three ways to encourage free play:
#1: Make sure there is free time available
It’s not easy to plot in free time, especially when your child is in school. Between eating, learning, extracurricular activities and homework, there aren’t many minutes left in the day. But free play really does need to be a family priority, so make sure you schedule some in. It could be a trip to the park straight after school, or having a friend over for dinner. Even just 45 minutes of free play a day could help your child to release some energy, use that imagination and unwind.
#2: Limit screen time
The few minutes we do have free each day tend to be spent staring at the television or playing games on a phone or tablet. While this might be an easy way of relaxing, it’s probably not offering many other benefits. Try to get out of the habit of turning the TV on as soon as you arrive home. Instead think of other things you can do around the home. Remember when you were young, how you’d spend hours building dens or riding your bike? That’s sort of what you want to recreate with free play, the freedom you had when you were young.
#3: Set up a playdate
When kids get together, free play is bound to happen. Two imaginations are better than one, so invite some friends over to join in. Let your child pick who they invite, after all, it’s their play date. Leave them to it so they can enjoy each other’s company and have some fun.