Yesterday, we got around to celebrating my son Lucas’ 2nd birthday! His birthday was in July but we left for vacation that weekend and decided to celebrate at a later date when we could get family and friends together. Around 3pm, many guests started arriving and our home became filled with laughter and voices that start out normal and escalate as everyone tries talking over one another. The kids ran around giggling with excitement of what to do next.
My husband set up our giant double water slide, grabbed the ladder for our trampoline and opened the doors to our giant play room. We also have a good sized playground in our backyard! The possibilities were endless for the kids to play. I sat back and watched the kids enjoying every minute they had with one another. Some of these kids were cousins and had only met eachother for the second or third time. They all played so well and the parents all sat and watched with smiles on their faces.
The interactions of the kids interested me enough to think about all the benefits of free play amongst our young community. When was the last time I saw kids playing in their yards or riding bikes? Even on vacation, my husband and I looked around never saw one kid playing. This is mind boggling to both of us….why? What has changed so much in our communities? Then I started to question why such a change and started listing reasons: laziness (parent/ child /both), too much tech time, sports, parent(s) working, social skills, parental guidance, too much parental control, parental fear from negative media and/or overscheduling.
I did a little research and found that kids that aren’t allowed free time become very stressed and depressed. Depression leads to headaches, anxiety, belly aches, poor sleeping habits, and tantrums. They are overwhelmed by homework, chores, sports and family/friend planned events. Everything is planned out and over controlled in their life! Kids can’t make their own choice(s). We have taken away our childs right to grow intellectually and physically without even truly meaning to.
Free play is so important on so many levels! Obesity is at its all time high amongst our children today. They aren’t riding bikes, jumping rope, making forts, playing tag or running around outside. Free play builds a childs social skills and problem solving. Allowing them to work out problems without an adult intervening. Kids build an imagination and a creative side when allowed to play freely. These are all key to maturing and becoming a competent adult.
We as parents need to cut back on the structure and allow more free time. We need to let our kids be the leader if we are involved in the roll playing. Cutting back on buying our kids toys allows them to imagine and improvise. Sit back and watch our kids socially interact and don’t chime in unless necessary. Free play is just that…not one ounce of structure behind it. Let kids be kids!
So, my list of reasons for the decline of play is all… right! We as parents can start changing this before it’s to late! Kids can still have structure but we need to allot more time for them to have free time. Safety is definitely a concern these days but parents may need to walk the block or ride a bike while your child rides their bike. Stay outside and work on the yard when your child plays. Be around but don’t dictate the next step. Let your kids be kids!
Lucas’ party had a pinata, gift opening and cake time! Plenty of sugar to go around. Lol. The kids had their much needed quality time while the adults had a great time as well. The good time sadly came to an end around 9pm. All of our guests left with smiles and memories to cherish for years.