It seems that some parents have forgotten how to play! Play can be acting silly, risk taking within a game, enjoying another’s company, and simply laughing and enjoying the moment. Observe young children at play and notice how they can create new worlds with only their imagination. Play can be spontaneous, or all about exploring something of personal interest, such as playing with a pet, running around the backyard or local park, or simply spending time watching a bug crawl across the ground.
Some adults believe that ‘play’ needs to be organized and include pre-determined guidelines. This can result in well meaning parents scheduling far too many after-school activities for their child, (i.e. dance, music, sports, etc.). Parents often don’t realize that, for children, school is their ‘work place’, and after a long challenging day ‘at work’, many children only want to relax, explore their personal interests, and enjoy some quiet downtime.
One mother expressed her frustration that when her son had some downtime, “He didn’t know what to do with himself!” This was the same child who was registered in daily after-school activities. While he enjoyed the activities, and his parents felt that they were providing great opportunities for their son, at school, the boy was too sleepy to pay attention in class, was too tired to make that extra effort to achieve, and was always behind in his homework and assignments. He did not seem to be a happy child. What he really needed to succeed in school was greater home support to achieve an improved balance in his life between too much work, too many after-school activities, and too few unstructured opportunities for play.
Parents often do not appreciate the importance of providing unstructured play periods for their children. These are opportunities when children further develop their interpersonal skills, and are free to be creative and make up their own unique play experiences.
The message is simple! As the new school year begins, ask your child what they would like to do in their after school hours, and listen to what they have to say. Avoid registering your child in more than one or two evening activities. Give your child the freedom and the space to play, to create, and to enjoy their own downtime. Encourage your child to get to bed at a reasonable hour to ensure that he/she is well rested and ready to take on the challenges, and enjoy the successes, of each school day.
Linda Sweet M.S. Ed.
Founder and Director, Glenburnie School
Pre-School to Grade 8
Providing a progressive and innovative private school education