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Thursday, June 11, 2020

7 Reasons Why This Chaotic, Unstructured Time Can Benefit Your Child

Photo by qimono (pixabay)

Parenting is primarily made up of daily tasks like making sure that homework is done, chores are completed, and everyone gets to bed on time. However, parenting usually has a lot of external structure: The parents leave home to work or go to appointments, and children go to school and activities. These daily doings give our lives external structure and create a built-in rhythm to our days. The standard advice after an emergency, like a hurricane or earthquake, is to get into a new routine as quickly as possible. The structure of routine helps children feel reassured and gives them a sense of consistency.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is a crisis that's unprecedented. Some states don't know when school will reopen as normal. Parents and children accustomed to leaving home for portions of the day now have long stretches of days when no family member leaves home. The good news, though, is that while your children may not be going to school, being idle at home can be good for them, too.

1. Unstructured playtime can help children become more adaptable, creative, and self-driven.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has found that unstructured play allows children to develop their physical dexterity, imagination, and emotional strength all at once. The sort of world-building children engage in when deep in imaginative play gives them a safe space to work out their fears and practice taking on new roles. Playing in this manner lets children develop new competencies.

2. Unstructured playtime can help children develop problem-solving skills.

Unstructured, lightly supervised playtime requires children to solve their own problems instead of being able to rely on adults or established rules. Children playing together will also learn how to approach issues together and come to an equitable solution.

3. When children have more choices for how to occupy their time, they build confidence.

The lives of modern children are often highly regulated. Day care, school, organized activities, and family time mean that children follow specific schedules and may have little input about what they do with their time. Now, with more open time, children can decide what they want to do. Learning how to choose how to occupy themselves is a valuable life skill that will help them build confidence.

4. When children are bored, they are driven to discover what entertains them, possibly leading to finding passions and interests.

Remember being a kid on an endless summer afternoon and creating a new activity to entertain yourself? Maybe you developed a love of reading, fixing electronics, creating websites, or writing stories. Your children will similarly benefit. The gift of unstructured time is the gift to follow your passions to learn what you love and practice your new skills.

5. Children will learn to follow a self-directed instead of externally driven schedule.

Children's lives are typically dictated by the demands of their schedule and that of their parents or caregivers. Now, children have the freedom and leniency to set their own schedule and approach their work in their own idiosyncratic way. This sort of liberty usually doesn't come until college! Children will learn how to prioritize, how to hold themselves accountable, and how to decide how long a chore or an assignment should take. These skills are highly necessary for future success as adults.

6. Unstructured time teaches children independence.

The new parenting norm is that children are never left alone. Kids are always under direct, active adult supervision. But unstructured time with less direct control gives children a sense of independence. They learn to entertain themselves, rely on themselves, and problem-solve without adult intervention.

7. Living through unprecedented times and learning to adapt will teach resilience.

Resilience is an important lesson for children to learn. Experts agree that the more resilient a person is, the better they will cope with stress and pressure throughout their life. Learning how to navigate the current crisis and how to handle the unstructured free time it brings will help to instill resilience in our children.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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