Free play is beneficial to all kids, but nature-based play is even better because it allows children to develop a range of science, math, and engineering skills.
As we move into spring and the days become warmer and longer, it’s only natural to want to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. What better time to take the kids and head to a local park as spring unfolds around us? Children are spending half the amount of time outdoors as children did in the ’70s and ’80s. Their free time has declined dramatically over the last 20 years and the amount of unstructured activity has decreased by 50 percent.…
We’re led to believe that our kids need to be scheduled, their time accounted for. But, what if they really need is freedom. Blank space. A time to be little.
Earlier this month I found myself looking at old photos from my childhood. I was reminded of how simple life was. I wasn’t enrolled, entertained, scheduled, supervised, coached, or assessed in adult-directed activities to be happy. I took my time. I collected sticks. Climbed trees. Rode my bike. Got dirty, and had FUN! Taking that step back in time left me craving more. More of that same, simple, beautiful life. It was a wonderful reminder that my own children need a slow childhood as well.
But, in our modern world, I’m acutely aware that I’m the odd parent out. And that makes it hard. It’s so sad to see all of our parks completely empty during the day (even in the summer) because kids are too busy with organized sports, gymnastics, music classes, etc. It’s not the organized sports and activities themselves that destroy creativity but the lack of downtime. Even two hours per week of unstructured play has the ability to boost children’s creativity to above-average levels!
One of the things that stop a lot of people from simplifying is fear. Fear that their kids might miss out on something. Fear of being judged for not “socializing” with other children. Fear that we may be impending our children’s success. Fear of what others may think.
It takes a brave parent to trust that simplifying our children’s lives and giving them down time to play and connect with their families is what they really need!