Saturday, June 18, 2011

Unstructured Creative Play

Play is an important aspect of development for humans just as it is for animals. Our society today focuses on structured activities and planned time for children such as sports music lessons,  extracurriculars and school. Less emphasis is placed on unstructured, creative and natural play in which children have the freedom and time to use their imagination, senses and truly be children. The American Academy of Pediatrics acknowledged the need for unstructured creative play with a report promoting a balanced lifestyle in terms of the type of activities child partake in and how children are affected later in life. Those with time balanced between structured activities and unstructured activities developed character traits for success. Our society is one in which life is hurried, technology reigns and toys instruct us how to play. The amount of time children spend engaging in unstructured play and natural play outdoors has decreased significantly since our parents were children.

Unstructured creative play has many benefits including helping children to manage stress, and reach important social, emotional and cognitive milestones. It allows children to create their own rules and games, not follow a preset. What children learn for themselves through unstructured, creative play is important and cannot always be provided by parents, teachers, coaches etc. According to Tom O'Leary, author of RetroActive: Skip, Hop and You Don't Stop (Games We Played), a book compiling over one hundred old school games from the seventies and eighties, unstructured, creative and natural play teaches children:
  • How to resolve conflict through compromise
  • How to be fair
  • How to be tolerant
  • How to adapt
  • Teamwork
  • To trust
  • To learn to take chances
  • To learn to laugh and not take themselves too seriously
  • That they are children and play is fun, as it should be
It should be noted that structured activities are essential to development and learning but a balance should try to be achieved to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I am compiling a list of places I want to take Trayton this summer to engage in natural, unstructured and creative play, a kind of where we're going this week series. Even as a 14 month old I feel it is to his benefit to explore new places outside of the farm in his own way; touching, smelling, seeing, tasting (where applicable) and hearing as he toddles around chattering away and engaging the world around him.

Wishing you a pot o' gold, and all the joy your heart can hold. Thanks for reading! Top Mommy Blogs - Mom Blog Directory