There comes a time, for every parent, when they look at their kid and think to themselves, “I am fresh out of ways to entertain you!“. Inevitably, that realization often comes wracked with guilt and disappointment.
Am I a Bad Parent?
You aren’t alone, and you aren’t a bad parent for feeling that way. Independent play is just as important, if not more important, than structured, parent driven play. Why?
The skills learned from free play teach children valuable skills that just can’t be learned from adult controlled activities.
Independent play according to the American Academy of Pediatric’s Clinical Report on The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, in addition to being important to healthy brain development, the benefits of play include:
• allowing kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths
• encouraging kids to interact with the world around them
• helping kids conquer their fears and build their confidence
• teaching kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
• helping kids practice decision making skills
• that it is fun
It is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child driven play. It is not the kind of play time that is totally controlled by adults and doesn’t include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer, or TV.
Keep in mind that just because free play isn’t controlled by adults doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t supervise your kids while they are playing, especially if they are playing outside.
Woohoo Party Time! Or Not…
Now this isn’t an out for parents. Playing with your children on a regular basis is absolutely essential. That’s what Tot Tuesday is all about. I know how hard it can be to think of something new to do with your child and keep them continuously engaged. My goal for Tot Tuesday is to build up an archive of great crafts, activities and recipes for you to do with your children whenever inspiration has left the building and you need a creative pick me up.
I would be remiss if I didn’t also include a Tot Tuesday post on free play, however. My kids have independent play all throughout the day. To be honest, those times are the times I most enjoy observing them. I stand off to the side and listen to their imaginations run wild. Now that they are getting older, their free play time also consists on interacting with each other. Oh, the crazy discussions and antics I’d miss if we had no free play time built into our day!
So this week, fit some independent free time into each day (if you don’t already). Use the time to recharge, use the time to do something that is important to you, use the time to casually observe your children! If free play is not something that you already have built into your day, your children might initially resist. Try starting them on an activity and walking away (like coloring, or play dough or playing outside). Slowly increase their free play time until you reach a duration that is comfortable for your family. Start with 5-10 minutes and work your way up.
So just let them be! is this week’s Tot Tuesday activity!
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