“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”– O. Fred Donaldson
O. Fred Donaldson, renowned play specialist is one of those many who vouch for the importance of free play in children. A typical toddler is often found in mama’s kitchen, digging into the cabinets, trying to fold (I know a lot of you out there wish to read it as unfold) those perfectly folded clothes in the wardrobe or having a porridge party all over his face and the table while eating. A typical homemaker is seen snapping with a ‘Nooo…. Don’t touch it, Don’t do this or don’t spill, etc… These rather mundane reactions are never easily acceptable for these tiny humans often resulting to tantrums.
Many modern homes are more adult-driven leaving behind the child and his needs. Organized sports, physically demanding evening and weekend classes, adult-driven structured activities take away trivial free time of the children. A research report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) highlights how pivotal free and unstructured play is for the healthy development of a child and that such playtime should not be sacrificed for supervised activities.
So what really is ‘unstructured play‘? How does one create an environment in the house which helps the child ‘play in freedom‘? These jargons are rather simple to decode. After all, when did children become so complicated? Read on further to see how best you can simplify the environment for your child lives in.
I do understand a parent’s need to send their child to a badminton class or a cricket class to learn a new sport. But, do not forget to give them ample time to go out with their friends and play, making their own rules. As a matter of fact, they love to run around kicking a stone, rolling cycle tires, racing to reach the farthest tree and climb it. The much younger ones feel secure in their own world when you give them sand, a bowl, and a scooper. They will build, demolish, pave, dig and what not. Such ‘play in freedom‘ benefits in many ways.
To watch little ones create with open ended toys is a beauty. From wooden blocks to kitchen utensils. You can watch their play evolve every single time they play. Your everyday household items can make the best of toys for the developing child. They find infinite ways to play with pans, spoons, little rags of cloth, package boxes, blankets. Oh yes, make it all available for them. Of course, keep the sharp and breakable things away or beyond their reach. Create a child friendly environment, if a child can reach it, he can and will take it. Cleaning up can always happen end of their playtime along with them (Psst!! They love to do that too!!)
There are innumerable benefits of letting the children play by themselves with fewer restrictions. Physical development, social skills, hand-to-eye co-ordination, motor skills, dexterity, decision making, creativity, mindfulness and so on.. Open ended toys like building blocks, peg dolls, animal figures, cloth dolls, empty cardboard boxes, real/ pretend kitchen utensils, bean bags, pebbles, sea shells, dried pods from trees and so on are better preferred by many educationists rather than coloring books, board games, noisy remote control cars, puzzles, Barbie dolls, etc which are structured end to end. A child can create nothing from them while with building blocks, for example, one can create towers, bridges, buildings, furniture and so much more.
Let your child be a child! He has all his life to finish off all the zillion hobby classes and he is in no rush at all.