Children’s toys and games have evolved dramatically in recent years. Many have come to resemble adult tools and forms of entertainment – there are computers, mobile devices, and robotics aimed for and marketed to children, as well as complex gaming systems and web sites full of activities and interactive features. There are obvious advantages to these forms of entertainment – kids today have access to all kinds of information and educational content. However, unstructured play away from screens and electronics is still critical to a child’s development. Here are some of the top reasons it’s important for kids to enjoy unstructured play.
Screen-based toys and structured activities lay out a course of action for kids to follow. There’s value in that, but there’s also value in allowing kids time to create their own activities with whatever materials happen to be lying around. Unstructured play encourages kids to use their imaginations and be creative, and developing creativity is important to your child’s future.
The child who looks at a pile of sand and sees the possibility of a castle could be the ground-breaking architect of tomorrow. The child who sets up a mock classroom to teach their dolls or pet cat today could be an innovative teacher tomorrow. Being creative and able to imagine and pretend is important for everyone. Creativity helps with problem-solving, innovation, and planning. Children who spend plenty of time on imaginative play even develop a better ability to empathize with others, as they learn the ability to imagine themselves in other people’s shoes.
There are many ways for children to socialize, from school to team activities to online interaction. However, some of the most important social learning happens when there’s no adult directing the activities and no website TOS to follow.
In many spaces and under many circumstances, adults create social rules for children to follow and step in to settle any conflicts that do flare up, and that’s appropriate. But children also need to experience conflict and conflict-resolution on their own, within reason, and they can do that when they’re able to engage in unstructured play with their peers. This helps them learn more than just how to follow social rules – it helps them learn how to build and maintain interpersonal relationships even when there are no rules, or when no one is around to enforce them.
Unstructured play can also help children grow in ways that aren’t obvious on the surface. Playing helps children’s brains make important connections between nerve cells. These connections help develop everything from fine and gross motor skills to the ability to plan and anticipate the consequences of decisions.
Parental control apps that help parents manage their kids’ screen time can support parents as they try to find ways to encourage both structured and unstructured play. To find out how parental control apps can work for your family, learn more now!