Many years ago, it was ‘normal’ to see children play in the streets or in the backyard on their own. I know what it’s like and how fun it was because I grew up in the Philippines a few decades ago where free play was just a part of growing up. Horrible stories about black tinted vans going around neighborhoods kidnapping children didn’t stop us from meeting with friends after school. Parents didn’t have to pay for an indoor playground or anything extra because we all love being with our friends outside. In the summer, we played until our feet hurt or our parents call us for dinner.
Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair. – Khalil Gibran
Nowadays, children spend more time in front of the TV, the tablet or smartphones playing with apps and video games. When kids start school, playtime is even more limited. Homework takes over playtime. Due to fear, most parents in this technologically advanced age, are faced with the dilemma on how to challenge our own children to play outside.
Playtime Benefits. Playtime has unlimited benefits to a child’s growth, especially when it is self-motivated. When the child has the freedom to make simple decisions, it boosts and exercises their independence. I believe it is vital for every child to be able to play — whether alone or with friends. Allowing children to have several hours of playtime each day reduces the use of online play. When I say playtime, I mean this definition from Oxford Dictionary: A period in the school day when children are allowed to go outside and play. This is especially true for homeschool families in which schedule is more flexible and allows more outdoor activities. Playtime promotes healthy personalities and good physical development. It enhances creativity and a deeper understanding of rules and strategies. It improves social interactions and leadership skills. Providing an environment where children are safe and free to explore and discover things on their own will help them learn many things at the same time.
Playtime with Siblings. As they say, we learn how to act and treat other people the same way we treat our own family. Home is where a child learns basic people skills. If we don’t know how to get along with our family, how do we expect to get along with people outside our family circle? Playtime with siblings encourages the value of sharing, kindness, and self-control.
Free Play. When children are free to go outside to play whether alone or with friends and where they can run around and just be themselves, it gives them a sense of independence. Safety is of utmost priority. However, once a safe environment is provided, the freedom to explore and discover is very liberating.
Playtime with Friends. Playing with others is the kind of play that we provide for our children for social development. This happens when we meet with groups of friends or some random families in church, in parks, during parties, or places where we interact with others. Mildred Parten, a researcher of childhood development, who discovered the six stages of play in children, calls this “cooperative play”. Children love to have friends and playtime gives them that chance to enjoy someone else’s company.
Independent/Solitary Play. During playtime at our home, I give my children at least 30 minutes to play on their own every day. It gives Big Sister the chance to play with her favorite toys without Little Brother “bothering” her while she is at play. Little Brother learns how to focus on his own. This was a challenge at our home at the beginning until we set or required a time given to each child so they can play on their own without interruptions. This made my children happier and more appreciative of the time they have to play together.
As homeschool parents, we do our best to create a balance in our home schedule for playtime and other many activities that would help our children develop to their full potential. We hope to provide a safe environment where each child learns to have fun and create fun.
What do you think about playtime for kids? How important is it to you?