When you were young you probably had favorite games like hide and seek, and playing house.
It used to be considered normal for kids to be outside from the time school let out until dinner was on the table.
Changing times, new parenting techniques and electronic overload has pushed many kids indoors, making them more dependent on their caregivers to provide entertainment.
This change has not only made the common play date a chore, but has taken more away from the kids than we can compensate for with our fancy intellectual stimulation games.
Mommy Underground has a detailed report you can check out on what toys provide the best long term benefit.
Having a child be able to entertain themselves is necessary in order to get anything done around the house, and to keep your sanity.
According to psychologist and author of “Einstein Never Used Flash Cards”, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Ph.D., teaching toddlers to play by themselves builds creativity and critical-thinking skills.
Hirsh-Pasek goes on to explain in Parents how a child is being enriched through self-entertainment:
“We often tell our children exactly what to do and how to do it, or that toys should be used in a certain manner. But creativity is an outgrowth of exploration, of using something in a new way.”
If your day is currently filled with children’s books, playing super hero, and craft hour, your child may need some readjusting to be able to move toward self-sufficiency.
It is not impossible for a child to learn this new difficult feat. There are some techniques that make the transition run smoothly.
Start small. You can sit near your child without actually participating in the game at hand, and then calmly walk away.
Also, trying to direct a child how to play can be detrimental. A child needs to be able to create the game and broaden their imagination through exploration.
Parents reports on the caregiver who tries to correct a child’s pretend play: “You might mean well, but if you interject too frequently, you risk raising a kid who always looks to you for direction.” Parents fill in the blanks too often. Even when they think they know all the right answers, adults need to give their children the permission to have their own ideas,” explains Dr. Hirsh-Pasek.”
The environment you create for your child is going to influence how well they are able to play on their own.
Dr. Troseth in Parents recommends “open-ended” items for your child to play with, that help to create an independent thinker.
These would be the simple toys, such as blocks, balls, and pretend play items like fake food and a picnic basket.
One may think that having overflowing toys to choose from makes it easier for the child to find something they like, but children are easily overstimulated. Less is more when it comes to toys.
The best option would be to allow your child ample amounts of free time to explore their environments and develop real life skills that can’t be obtained through playing with toys alone.
Professor of Psychology at Boston College, Dr. Peter Gray, defines “free play” as “play a child undertakes him- or her-self and which is self-directed and an end in itself, rather than part of some organized activity”, reported the Atlantic.
There is an epidemic concerning our children in this nation. More and more kids are developing mental disorders, all while education declines.
Dr. Gray feels this is largely in part to the drastic decline in children’s uninhibited play time, which his research has shown contributes to anxiety, depression, attention issues, and self-control.
Many parents are exploring educational alternatives because of the issues they see are so prevalent in traditional learning environments; see more on that report at Mommy Underground.
Kids playing amongst themselves with no parental control is a “testing ground for life”, reported the Atlantic.
Instinctively, parents know that outdoor play, and playing with friends is important for their children.
Society today is lacking common sense in so many areas that it is difficult to give your child any free roam without fear of consequences from some judgmental spectator.
It would be nice to just say “ignore the nay sayers”, but liberal legislation has given nosey neighbors a voice in the well-being of your children.
There have been several terrifying scenarios highlighted in the media in recent years where parents are being arrested, or charged with felonies, while their children are put into foster care, because they allowed their children unsupervised free play.
Fox News Insider reported on one family who was shocked to find their children taken away from them for their 11-year-old son playing alone in their own yard.
The family’s attorney asserted how, “This is a typical example of when government goes too far and actually creates a worse situation than before.”
Sadly, there are many more stories just like this one where families are devastated and torn apart.
While there are legitimate cases that warrant a child being taken from the home, allowing your responsible child to play independently within reasonable parameters is not one of them.
The research clearly spells out the benefits in allowing your child to have independent free play, void of any adult control on a regular basis.
If only we could convince those who have no active role in raising our children that we are doing what is best for them.