I love listening to my kids at play. I often can tell exactly what is going on by the tone of their voice or the shade of laughter I hear. Often, based on these sounds, I can accurately predict how their unsupervised play will end.
However, if my kids recognize that I am near, the dynamic of their play changes dramatically. Their tone and activities shift to giving me routine updates as to what they are doing, or who are slighting who, or my least favorite: playing referee.
In these moments I try to evade making anyone right or wrong. They know their dad is a problem solver and can quickly reconcile the situation. Yet, if I was to constantly judge and right the situations, I am only robbing them of important growth. It is critical for children to have good stretches of unsupervised play. Below I have listed five critical benefits of this type of play (reference: Jean Oram- it’s all kids play, see bottom).
Unsupervised play for children leads to:
Independence- Children begin to learn to function independently of their parents and others.
Social Skills- Children practice modes of conversation, how to interact, and how the world will respond to such usage.
Problem Solving- Children develop critical skills on how to break down a problem and resolve without aid.
Resiliency- Being able to solve problems and develop their own identity, children learn to regulate their emotions when things don’t go as planned.
Confidence– Children gain confidence in self that they can function in the world without constant guidance.
Now if we add in that, as much as possible, play should be outside, the benefits are multiplied. Children live through their senses as their intellect develops. Outdoor play is a complete sensory experience. Below are the main benefits of unsupervised outdoor play.
Intellectual Health Benefits: Children have reduced ADHD symptoms. While ADHD symptoms go down, concentration and mental acuity go up.
Physical Health Benefits: Children are more likely to be active while outside. Outside activity leads to an increase in motor fitness and a decrease in childhood obesity.
Mental Health Benefits: Being outside and unsupervised, children have an increased feeling of self-worth. They also have a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.
I love watching my kids outside hustling around the yard or just creating their own games with whatever toys they find. There is something magical about the outdoors that just cannot be duplicated inside. Let them run wild while keeping an eye on them from a distance. The benefits outway any potential risks of injury (AKA- let them climb the tree or jungle gym).
Photo provided by Annie Spratt via Unsplash
Benefits of unsupervised play were referenced from www.itsallkidsplay.ca by Jean Oram