Keep Playing Throughout the Year!
With the new school year, families may be focused on academics, activities and life's demands. The best things about summer--play, fun and adventure--may seem forgotten. I’m here to encourage you to not just hang on to those things, but to make them central to the school year.
One way to do that is to make room for your child to have unstructured play. Unstructured play means allowing them to explore their environment (like climbing trees or running on the playground) or express their creative fantasies (like art or imaginary play). It is play that is not typically goal-oriented or directed by adults.
Actually, I’m not going to suggest that you merely encourage your kids play, but that you schedule time for it. Put it in your calendar as though it were soccer practice and protect that time at all costs.
You might think that demanding playtime seems a little too extreme. After all, there are so many other demands on you as a parent and your kids. However, because of all those other demands it is all the more important that you protect playtime.
If you’re having trouble seeing yourself carving out time for your child’s playtime, take a moment and ask yourself what do you value. Is it your children’s academic success? Their mental or physical health? Their independence or confidence? Or, dare I say, do you value having some time to yourself while your child is entertaining themselves?
Now, find 10 reasons why encouraging your child to play MORE will help your values, and in turn help your child. How does play help them in school? How does play help them with their health? How does play help you as a parent? The answers are endless and all of them are important.
Kathleen Salmon, LCSW, RPT is a therapist based in Boulder. She loves playing and talking with kids and teens. She thinks scheduling time to play is one of the most important things for busy families!