It’s a Smart Move to PLAY! 

 

It’s Summer: A time for kids to run wild, soak up the sun, and spend long daylight hours playing with the neighbourhoud gang while making memories to last a lifetime. 
 

 
 

 

Or, if your kids are not cast in a nostalgic coming-of-age film, a time to watch TV, pick fights with siblings, and die of boredom until parents return home from work. 
 

 

 

 

A recent report found that Canadian children accumulate an average of nearly 8 hours screen time a day -- 4 times the recommended maximum!(!!!!)

 

 

 

Such an excess can lead to difficulty sleeping, anxiety, depression, attention problems and weight gain in kids and adults alike. Kids are especially at risk of an overdose in the summer months.

 
Child's Play

 

The best thing you can do to avoid rearing brain-dead zombie children is to let them play!!

 

Studies show that self-motivated play (as in, play that is not directed or organized by an adult) actually stimulates growth of the cerebral cortex -- the part of the brain responsible for perceiving, reasoning, understanding language, and all sorts of other good stuff we’d like our kids to be able to do. While all physical activity benefits a child, organized sports do not promote the same benefits of free play. Unstructured play is an act of initiative, investigation, and creativity. Free play helps kids explore ideas and prepare themselves for real life. 

 

But this recent cover of The New Yorker probably predicts what your child's next play date will look like: 

 

 

 

A parent's role in promoting free play

 

Set the stage, and then step back!  Here are a few ways promote free play time that will encourage happier and healthier kids: 

 

  1. Provide free time in a low-tech environment such as playgrounds, swimming pools,  the beach, or even the backyard. In the home, this means turning off the wifi or restricting TV hours. Turn off background TV and put small devices out of site. 
     
  2. Create a “kid space.” Rec. rooms and play areas provide a place for children to feel comfortable playing make-believe and exploring ideas. Again, make sure that play areas and bedroom areas are screen free. 
     
  3. Keep it simple. Building blocks, cardboard, pillows, dress up clothes. See how kids can use their imaginations to create the most elaborate structures from every day objects. Research has found that the complexity of block play can predict  a child's mathematic achievement in high school. 
     
  4. Model media-free free time: Bake, build, sing, act, make, play. Let your kids see you using your time to create things rather than consume media. 

 

Provide the right environment -- no screens, some simple resources, a safe space, free time, and a great role model -- and watch your kids effortlessly reach new heights in their developmental growth, intelligence, and happiness...just by playing.