Sunday, September 19, 2010

Structured or unstructured play time?

There has been plenty of debate recently about structured versus unstructured play.  For those that are not sure of the difference, structured play involved preplanned activities.  Preplanned activities may include themed events and even board games where there are a set of rules that need to be followed.  Unstructured play is basically free time for the children to so as they wish in their playtime.

Child development experts say that unstructured play is vital to the development of the child.  Unstructured play allows children to learn to play together effectively.  It allows them to learn teamwork and compromise.  It also allows the child to explore lands of make believe and allows for their play to be imaginative and unbounded.  This type of play also allows the child to learn problem solving skills as they will make forts, use everyday items around the house as props for their play and they will create characters and stories that they will play to.

Having a constant schedule to adhere to can be a good thing however, if there is absolutely no free time it does tend to become stressful.  As grownups we often crave time where we have nothing to do except for relax, maybe watch some television or read; whatever it is that we enjoy doing.  This is the very same concept for children.  They need the time to daydream and image things that they want to do and make up their own games.

There are others that say that unstructured play leaves too much of an opportunity for a child to act inappropriately and get into trouble.  They also say that there should be play dates set so that their children can be supervised at all times and that there also should be games and activities that are planned before the play date.

Advocates against unstructured play also believe that there is no room for idle time in a child's day.  All time should be scheduled and that leaves no room for misbehaving.

Advocates for unstructured play feel that so much structure will backfire later on in the child's life and may lead to rebellion.  Parents that plan every facet of a child's day tend to do so on into a child's later years.  This constant planning will make the child feel as if they have no choice to do the things that they want to do and to participate in last minute activities with their friends.

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