Iâll be honest. I have no idea what unstructured play means. When I was a child in the 80s, I would ride my bike down the street to my friends’ houses. I could actually hear my mother call me in for dinner. I guess that was unstructured play, in the sense that my friends and I had no plans really and our parents let us be. But HELLO! – Â Itâs 2013!
Every time I read the news (including on Mommyish) there are stories about rape, kidnapping, drugs, and shootings. So, will I let my 9-year-old play outside, or even with a friend outside alone? Absolutely not. Iâm not an over-protective helicopter parent by any means. But people do not stop at stop signs in my area and most people still text and drive and I could never forgive myself if âunstructured playâ lead to an accident or death of my child.
She can walk to a friendâs house when she gets a phone and thatâs not happening just yet. In a previous piece, people were all over my ass for âover-schedulingâ my daughter. Maybe she is overscheduled â to you. This is also, I suppose, âstructured play.â But I know my daughter better and being part of a play, singing in concerts, and dancing are her loves. For her, it IS play. Never once in her life has she said, âIâm bored.â She has friends and has made new friends in these âstructuredâ activities. So Iâm sorry. The way I see it for my kid and all her friends, âunstructured playâ is extinct, gone the way of the dinosaur.
I find it ironic that from the time your baby is born, people will tell you they need âroutines, routines, routinesâ and that âroutines, routines, routinesâ are good. Then, suddenly, one day, people are telling you that children need âunstructured playâ which is the complete opposite of routine. So which is it? Even by scheduling in âunstructured playâ makes it not structured at all. Or does it?
Usually on Saturday afternoons, my daughter has a playdate. Iâm not the type of mother who hangs around during playdates. I stay out of their way when they hang out in my daughterâs bedroom. I keep an ear open, but I do not participate. Is that unstructured play? I suppose so, if you consider 9-year-olds playing on iPads, ordering movies, or watching YouTube videos of Justin Bieber to beÂ unstructured play. Last time during her âunstructured playâ my daughter and her friend Googled Justin Bieberâs phone number and they were so excited to tell me that they called him 10 times. When I asked to see the number, of COURSE, it was a long distance number. Canât wait to get that bill!
Because children, or at least my daughterâs friends, donât have âunstructured playâ (all her friends take lessons, have tutors, ski lessons, etc.) not one of these kids actually knows â like me â what unstructured play means. If I told my daughter to âgo have some unstructured play!â sheâd look at me as if Iâd just asked her to multiple 176×28 in her head.