A lot of us lead busy lives with most of the hours of our day scheduled. But isn’t it nice when you finally get some free time to do what YOU want? It’s the same for our kids. Having structure in their day is necessary and good, but it’s also important for some of their time to be unstructured and free. And what better time of year to let them be free than in the summer?
Free play is the time when kids decide what open-ended things they will play with and how they will play with it. It’s usually done with little or no parent involvement, and no real end goal in mind. So think Legos, but not a Lego set with directions. Or playing at a water table or in a sand box, but not playing a board game with directions.
When kids engage in free play, it actually helps develop important parts of their brain that control things they will need as they grow into an adult—things like making plans, problem-solving, and regulating their emotions. And letting them be bored sometimes is good for them, too. We want to nurture those creative, problem-solving abilities that come from a kid being left to their own devices (within reason, of course).
If you need some ideas on how to get started, here is a list of a few things you can have your kids try this summer:
- Give them sticks and rocks to build with
- Let them create art with things found in nature
- Look at the stars
- Send them outside with a magnifying glass
- Play in a sand box
- Give them old clothes to play pretend with
- Give them empty cardboard tubes to make something or pretend with