Do Your Children Lack Playtime?
My son, daughter, and my son’s buddy were lounging on the couch while I was feverishly attempting to prepare for Thanksgiving.
They were acting strangely quiet, and when I went to check on them, I saw why: despite being seated close to one another, each child was focusing on a different device.
“The weather is pleasant. Play in the fresh air “When I pushed them out the door, I informed them.
After some initial complaining and rolling of the eyes, they eventually spent the following two hours playing a game that resembled a haphazard form of football while enthusiastically running around our garden.
It seemed as though they had forgotten how much they cherished a free afternoon spent outside.
According to Peter Gray, Ph.D., research professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, this isn’t surprising given that since the mid-1960s we’ve gradually been taking away more and more of kids’ free time with each decade.
According to Gray, if children don’t have at least five to six hours of free time each day for play, they are depriving themselves of the opportunity to play.
“The school year and day have gotten longer, we’ve removed recess, and we have developed this belief that our children are in danger if we aren’t watching over them all the time,” says Gray.
“Childhood should be a time when we may practice being responsible, independent, and capable of problem-solving and decision-making. And play is how kids naturally practice the abilities that are crucial for their development.”
Crucial Is Downtime
Actually, most children—including my own—don’t get to spend that much time playing unstructured every day.
As there is so little free time during the school day, after-school hours are frequently spent completing homework assignments or participating in scheduled activities.
When I picked my daughter up from school, she was delighted to tell me about how her second-grade teacher last year frequently allowed her class to spend additional time outside on nice days.
So I questioned René Blume-Meagher, her previous teacher, about how she managed to strike a balance between the need to prevent learning loss and her desire to give her kids the opportunity to explore and play.
There is plenty of time for everything if the teaching is of a high caliber, she assures me. “Furthermore, I engage in dialogues with my students during their playtime that would never take place during a lesson or assignment. I am able to identify their interests and learning styles and better comprehend them as learners.”
However, it seems that most schools in the nation place little emphasis on playtime and its advantages.
My parent friends revealed in an impromptu Facebook poll that, if there is any recess at all, it lasts only 15 to 30 minutes on average for their children. (Despite the briefness of this respite, hearing that classic games like kickball and Four Square is still popular was encouraging.)
According to Heather Wiese, a resident of Dexter, Michigan, “Sixth grade is the last year of playtime in our school system, and the kids and instructors know this and enjoy the time.” The kids clearly need that time, so it’s terrible that it’s coming to an end.
Here’s Why Rough Play Is Good For Your Children
The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy on Recess was co-authored by Catherine Ramstetter, Ph.D., a founding member of the Global Recess Alliance, a group of health and education leaders committed to the preservation of recess “Playtime should not be eliminated in order to increase instructional time.
We won’t be able to digest new knowledge if we don’t give our brains a chance to reset “she claims. “It’s like pouring water into a cup that’s already full.”
Promote play independence
How, therefore, in a society that increasingly prioritizes productivity above unrestricted leisure time, can parents assist their children in avoiding play deprivation, a condition that can result in despair and anxiety?
Unexpectedly, one of the nicest things we can do for our children is to let them play alone, whether it is inside or outside, or even online.
When adults are there, they will direct children, even when they have the best of intentions, according to Gray. “Children, however, are negotiating and figuring out how to achieve something that they both want to do when they play with other children.
Or, if they are playing by themselves, they are learning what they enjoy or are excellent at, which could create the groundwork for their future job.” (And spare you from playing Candy Land one more time.)
Children Need Independent Outdoor Play—How Here’re Parents Can Support It
Unsupervised playtime (in a secure environment, of course) affords kids privacy, which is crucial as they become older despite the temptation to be involved in every part of their lives. “Give your kids the freedom to choose their own pals.
Giving children space to mature as an adult does not indicate that you are a distant parent “Ramstetter argues.
Also, if your children prefer to play online than outside, don’t worry about it too much.
“Playing video games increases the kinds of cognitive talents that are measured on IQ tests—the ability to think rapidly, to make quick and accurate decisions, and to hold numerous pieces of information in your mind at once,” claims Gray.
Video games are engaging and demanding. They also encourage social interaction between children and their friends.
They can also be a good equalizer if you have children of various ages. Jeana Kraft, a mother from Wausau, Wisconsin, says, “My kids just acquired Madden ’23 and I enjoy that it brings all three of them together.”
My children, ages 11 and 8, exhibit this as well. Together and with youngsters from both of their buddy groups, they play Fortnite a lot.
What Parents Need to Know About the Advantages of Screen Time in Play
Regarding such decreased break periods, Ramstetter advises parents to inquire with their children about their recess habits, the games they play, and whether or not recess is ever taken away as a punishment.
“Throughout the nation, there is a lot of parent-led lobbying for playtime. Parents are strong “she claims. (I raised this when my daughter’s recess was canceled because she was talking in art class. Currently, our school no longer follows that rule.)
And even though I’ll always prefer outdoor play for my children over Fortnite, I’m going to heed Gray’s counsel and let them play the way they see fit.
Youngsters gain control of their life by playing independently of adults, according to Gray. One of the best gifts I can give them is to let them do that.
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