Just in case we needed one more nail in the over-booked, intensely scheduled coffin, another survey has come out that shows mothers and children want more unstructured play time. The pressure to get children in more and more activities has been building on parents for a while now. Sports leagues that start the minute a child can walk, music lessons for toddlers, foreign languages are easier to learn the earlier you begin… We have a lot of reasons to involve our children in an ever-growing number of activities, lessons and hobbies. For a while, we listened to all those reasons and we programmed our children to within an inch of their sanity.
Now, the backlash has begun. This weekend, we discussed the financial and mental implications of involving our children in every activity that comes along. And another survey was just released by Kidspot, an Australian parenting website and community, stating that 50% of mothers said they were suffering from “family fatigue”. Editor Alex Brooks explains,
“Family fatigue is not only exhausting for busy mums but robs kids of the chance to create their own imaginative play, which occurs when they have nothing structured to do.”
This survey seems to be looking for more playgrounds that foster imaginative play for kids. 97% of the mothers were looking for these types of playgrounds, areas that worried more about simple kinds of discovery than equipment. These moms wants space to play in the water, pick through stones and chase butterflies. I have to admit, reading that made me thankful to live in a small city in the Midwest.
But I think that one of the most important focuses of this article in particular, is the belief that children benefit from having nothing to do. When we step back and allow them to explore, they find new and exciting ways to discover. It reinforces a belief that childhood development experts have known for a long time, unstructured play helps our children learn and grow.
Extra-curricular activities like sports, art lesson and additional foreign language studies all have a wonderful purpose. They allow our children to explore areas that aren’t commonly provided through school. They often teach teamwork, dedication and hard work. But they aren’t the only useful activity that your children will get. Sometimes, boredom can lead to great things too.