Parents

Make Free Play A Priority In Your Child's Life

04/11/2017 06:07pm ET | Updated April 12, 2017

Today’s kids are immersed in a laundry list of activities and classes even before they reach school-age. As a parent, you want to give your child the best advantage in life as possible. However, over-scheduling and over-stimulating your child may be hindering his intelligence rather than helping him.

Free play is critical to your child’s development. Many of the world’s greatest discoveries occurred during relaxed states.

Albert Einstein reportedly came up with the theory of relativity when daydreaming while doing repetitive work at a patent office. James Watson claims his sudden insight during a good night’s sleep lead to the discovery of the double-helix, our DNA. Isaac Newton is said to have come up with his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree while lounging in his mother’s garden.

Our natural state is peaceful, and by calming our minds, we distract ourselves from our distractions. This helps us organize our environment to allow creativity to blossom.

Therefore, you need to give your child time to access his natural state and find his gifts.

While your child is young, you should provide free play opportunities in safe, print- and material-rich environments. These environments help foster elements of observation, manipulation, communication, and creativity.

By age four, your child’s brain is 50% developed; by the teenage years, 80% of his brain is developed. Instead of constantly making sure your child is “doing something productive,” give him time to be himself…and watch the amazing ways he will use that time.

At least once each day, set aside free play time for your child.

Here are some ideas for incorporating free play into your family life:

If you have a baby or toddler at home:

  • give your baby or toddler a safe space that is confined & secure. Let him explore the playroom, for instance, while you are nearby reading a book.
  • Before giving your baby or toddler free play time, be sure to remove potentially dangerous items such as hot tea and coffee, knives, and other sharp objects from the area.

If you have a tween or teen at home:

  • allow him an allotted amount of time outside of homework, after-school activities, and hanging out with friends – 30 minutes or 1 hour – where electronics are off and you are nearby.
  • ensure your child has plenty of tools - such as paper, pens, pencils, journals, books, paint supplies, gardening, cooking supplies, arts and crafts, and other non-electronic activities that he can choose from.

You can choose to start with one of these practices at a time, starting with one that you feel best works with your family structure and schedule.

Once your family has incorporated one or more of these practices regularly into family routine, take note of any differences:

  • Is your child able to focus more?
  • Does your child seem more relaxed and happy?
  • Is your child able to create some amazing artwork or come to any fantastic discoveries during free play?

I am betting that you will see a difference, and your child will feel the difference as well.