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Kids Need More Unstructured Play Time

The American Academy of Pediatrics says what children really need for healthy development is more good, old-fashioned playtime.


Kids need more “spontaneous, free play” in their schedule. Whether its running after bugs, building with blocks or playing with friends, kids need to do more unstructured activities.

Many families spend most of their time jugging soccer, hockey, ballet and brownie schedules. This doesn’t leave much time for kids to be creative and make up their own things to do.

Numerous studies have shown that unstructured play has many benefits. It can help children become creative, discover their own passions, develop problem-solving skills, relate to others and adjust to school settings.

A lack of spontaneous playtime can create stress for children and parents alike. If it occurs because young children are plopped in front of get-smart videos or older children lose school recess time, it can increase risks for obesity. It may even contribute to depression for many children, the report says.

Organized activities are beneficial, but should not be viewed as a requirement for creating successful children. Above all, they must be balanced with plenty of free play time.

Children overscheduled with structured activities “are missing the chance they have to dream, to fantasize, to make their own world work the way they want it. That to me is a very important part of childhood,” Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, pediatrician and author

I think sometimes when parents have 2 or 3 children in different sports or activities they need to bring all of their children to each event. If each child is only involved in 1 organized sport, they may have to meet several times a week for practices or games. This wouldn’t leave any time for them to just have “kid time” where they are just hanging out making up games to play.

It’s tough for parents to balance personal time for their children and also keep them involved with activities that will improve social skills and also keep them active.


About the author

Lisa Arneill

Mom of 2 boys and founder of GrowingYourBaby.com and World Traveled Family. When I'm not running around after my boys, I'm looking for our next vacation spot!

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