Parents are generally very keen to encourage their child to take up activities like a new club, a new sport, or learn an instrument perhaps, alongside their education. Many parents like their child’s diary to be full and busy with the range of activities on offer. It helps keep them occupied. It helps dilute the amount of time gaming! It’s considered a valuable part of their childhood and development.
What is less commonly encouraged, it seems, because it is generally undervalued, is having time for play activities.
An excellent article in the Huffington Post recently outlined the many benefits of playing with the kids.
These benefits include the improvement of general wellbeing, development of mental and physical skills, helping to express emotions and consequently improve behaviour by allowing the opportunity to dilute pent-up feelings, and improving bonds of love and respect between parents and children when parents are involved in the play activities too.
But an often overlooked benefit that parents can sometimes fail to appreciate is that play also encourages independence.
This happens because whilst they play, children are faced with activities, challenges, and problems that they can have some charge over and, however miniscule these opportunities might be, they develop valuable skills. Thinking skills, for example, as in thinking out solutions or creations for themselves, problem solving skills, decision making and taking charge of a situation, a skill often neglected in a child’s more commonly spoon-fed existence. These are the skills they need for tackling life as they grow, particularly the skill to take charge of their own learning and life.
If we never give youngsters the opportunity to make a decision or take charge of anything, they’re not going to have the skills needed to do so when required – a point colleges, universities and employers often make when they engage young people who appear to have little common sense or initiative. Independent play helps build personal initiative.
Whilst we are busy as parents care taking, organising and arranging our children’s lives, as well as keeping them safe, it can become the case that we are over controlling and possibly neglect to give opportunities to practice the skills kids need to become independent.
Many parents would see play as a ‘childish’ activity. But it is an important part of the maturation process – whatever age – and shouldn’t be discouraged. After all, play is something we still do as adults in order to learn things – playing with our new phone in order to work out how to use it is an excellent example of that.
Whilst the article mentioned focuses on playing together and outlines the importance of sharing play activities with the kids, and how it is of benefit to both parties, (there are tips on activities you can do together), it is equally important that youngsters have the time and opportunity for free and independent play in order to develop those skills for independence too.