The Importance of Unstructured Play Time for Kids

Dr. Angela Seabright
Gretchen Maurer

| 2 min read

unstructured play for kids
About a month of summer has passed and it’s getting to the dreaded “I’m bored” statement from kids. With long, empty days to fill their time with different activities, it becomes more and more difficult for parents to keep their children busy.
A great way to keep kids busy is by enrolling them in summer activities like sports camps or music lessons. Some structure, even in the summer months, won’t hurt. There’s just one thing to keep in mind while doing this: what’s important, as Bruce Feiler discusses in the New York Times, is that there is a line between enriching children’s lives and being overscheduled. Don’t let the push for greatness be too much for your child.
As kids are encouraged to use their creativity and imagination, their thought processes are positively affected. This also provides an outlet for children to better handle stress.
kids running
According to Grace Derocha, RD, registered dietitian and health coach for Blue Cross Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, it is easy for kids to absorb their parents’ personalities. So, as many parents’ strive for perfection in work and parenthood, kids are also likely to strive for perfection in their lives.
Jon Hamilton of nprED also shares that unstructured play helps the development of children’s brains. The brain controls emotions, problem solving and decision making, so it’s clear to see how this play is beneficial. Hamilton points out that kids who only participate in structured activities from a young age have a hard time developing these key brain functions and those that had more unstructured play lead a happier life.
So, this summer, instead of having a full packed week of activities to keep your kids busy, try some activities that involve free play. Plan a play date, build a fort on a rainy day, do some arts and crafts, or even go to a nearby beach, anything that lets your child’s imagination run wild.
What are some fun, stress-free activities you’ve done with your kids this summer? Let us know in the comments below.
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Photo Credit: A Healthier Michigan (feature, inset)

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