Our kids live in a world surrounded by screens, a world riddled with ‘danger’ at every turn, a world rife with the pressures of academic, sporting and cultural achievement, long days and extra lessons. The question is: when do they get to play?
Experts have proven that allowing kids to engage in unplanned, unstructured playtime is more than just frivolous fun; it’s vital for their overall learning and early childhood development. Having the privilege to play freely helps children acquire knowledge and skills they’ll need to use throughout their lives.
Learning through play
No matter the type of play – be it physical, individual, competitive, social, creative or imaginative – children derive important life lessons from the chance to experiment, explore and be spontaneous. Listed below are a few of the many life lessons kids learn through play:
- Collaboration and cooperation with others
- Negotiation skills
- Inventiveness and creativity
- Conflict resolution
- Leadership skills
- Language and verbal skills
- Physical development
WATCH: In a TedX Talk talk, Professor Doris Fromberg (the Director of Early Childhood Teacher Education at Hofstra University) explains why play is such an essential part of the learning process for children.
“We need to consider that young children learn in quite different ways [than adults]. They learn by comparing physical experiences, by interactions with other people and their own feelings. And they learn an enormous amount through their imagination… Play is what pulls together the logical and creative parts of the brain.”
How to prioritise playtime
There’s no doubt that play is an important part of every child’s development. So, in a world full of distractions, how do you encourage your kids to become playtime pros?
- Set a good example – encourage your children to try different forms of play, and make sure you get some playtime yourself; it’s also important for adults to have free time to spend doing things that bring them joy.
- Don’t overdo the extras – yes, children can learn and have fun through extracurricular activities, but they also need time and freedom to engage in unstructured play.
- Get the imaginations going with toys and aids – having a few exciting toys to play with encourages kids to learn through play. You can also consider starting a toy exchange with a group of friends to keep a fresh rotation of toys coming into your household.
- Set limits for screen time – set an age-appropriate limit on how much time your kids are allowed in front of all screens per day (this includes cellphones, TV, tablets and computers).
- Set them free – send your children outside to explore the outdoors. Try not to be paranoid about their safety. Rather, teach them how to look after themselves and try to keep your supervision to the appropriate minimum.
Now, it’s time to get away from the screens and schedules and have some fun!
Shea Karssing is a writer for School-Days, a bursary-building platform that helps South African families pay towards school fees. Join for free today: https://www.schooldays.co.za/