Remember those nonchalant evenings of your childhood, a hopscotch drawn on your house’s pavement, the riots of colourful kites flying in the sky during the winter sun, peddling your cycle so hard that you feel the wheels will come out. Running out of house after breakfast on a Sunday and coming home just before dusk. Good times right!! The neighbourhood used to be a safe place where in the child was taken care by the entire street. None of this was done under constant parental guidance except maybe for the first few times.
But now do you see your kids being able to do any of that? Can we send our precious little ones out to play unsupervised? I don’t think so. With the rising number of paedophilers roaming around, cases of child trafficking, kidnapping we no longer know if there is a big bad wolf hidden under grandma’s skin. The streets are not what they used to be.
All this has turned us into a generation of overprotective, overbearing parents and in turn effected our child’s cognitive development. Much of these repercussions are due to the plethora of information available to us. Did we know earlier about what happened to one kid living in another part of the world and be scared because of it? Don’t take me wrong I am an absolute advocate of freedom of information but one cannot adjourn the fact that it has instilled too much fear into us.
I myself plead guilty of being one such parent. I agree that we cannot exercise the same carefree approach as our parents did. But as much as I hate to admit this attitude is especially damaging for our toddlers and preschoolers. With rising academic pressure my 4 year old is supposed to know how to read and write A-Z and 1-50 numbers and much more. This has substantially reduced their play time at school as well. Play time is not a luxury it is a necessity. Leo F. Buscaglia or more commonly known as Dr. Love appropriately quoted “It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.”
How then do we provide this necessity which has become a luxury in our current times to our kids? To understand this first lets broadly categorize play time into two categories:
These types of plays are extremely efficient in building long term communication channels. It’s time for you to listen and be heard too. You can pass on multiple traits and values to your child without even trying too hard for it. Most importantly when we become a kid and play with them it gives us a very refreshing view of their understanding of the world. You will be shocked to know what all they have the ability to teach you. Moreover it’s a big booster that mommy and daddy wants to play in their fantasy land, makes them feel what they are doing is also important. But be observant of the following mistakes:
- Switch off that phone please
- Mommies please give a rest to all the chores
- Don’t make the child come into your world. Step into his/hers
- Turn off that TV also
- And avoid teaching too many things at once
It is of utmost importance for parents to set QUALITY playtime with their children.
- Pretend play, you be the patient let them become a doctor or become a buyer let him/her be a shopkeeper. You can teach the value of money and its management as so much.
- Solve a jig saw puzzle. Start with less difficulty and raise the level steadily to keep up interest. You will be shocked how fast they learn. My daughter moved from 4 piece puzzle to 24 pieces within a week.
- Play outdoors. Take them to a park you will be shocked to see what a little fresh air would do to your child. While it will obviously develop them physically it will make them mentally strong also
- Play hide and seek
- Read a book together
- Do art and craft projects together.
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As much as it is important for the child to spend some quality time with parents. It is equally important for them to play in solitary or in their own peer group unsupervised. When kids are playing under constant guidance they tend to depend upon the adult advice and support from time to time in turn incapacitating their own judgement.
Being on there own helps them:
- To enhance their creativity
- Develop negotiating capability
- Making new relationships on their own and maintaining them
- Develop gross motor skills
- Makes them self reliant
- Learn to entertain themselves
- Evolve Independent thinking
The advantages are more than I can site. It is our chief responsibility as a parent to make time for unsupervised play for our kids by maybe:
- Not enrolling them to too many after school activities
- Reducing their screen time
- But one thing that has helped me the most is making a playgroup for my daughter and letting them play at each other’s houses without constant adult watch. That way I know that my daughter is in a safe place yet she gets the benefit of free play.
Dr Madeline Levine a USA based child psychologist in her book Teach Your Children Well, has developed a concept of “time wheel” of child’s 24-hour day. There are fixed wedges of time each day for school, homework, meals and sleep. Whatever is left over is that “sliver of time” should be adequately distributed between leisure, and playtime both supervised and unsupervised. She further writes “We all know that some of our best work is done when no one is watching, when we feel free to be flexible and creative. Make sure your child has time to explore and create and learn without the pressure of constant scrutiny and evaluation.”
In the end I would just like to add that a Child’s safety is a parent’s supreme responsibility which cannot be negotiated with. But don’t let too much fear of the unknown choke the fun out of your child’s childhood. Work out ways which suits your situation and try and give the best of all that you can. It’s okay to let it go sometimes.