It’s official. Kids need more time to play.
We didn’t need the Atlantic [ http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/06/for-better-school-results-clear-the-schedule-and-let-kids-play/373144/ ] to tell us this.
But wait. There’s a rub. It seems kids need more time to play… without adult intervention.
What? No grown-ups? It will never fly. Developmental anarchy. Instructional blasphemy. They are kids, you know. They need us; they really, really need us.
They do need us, but not all the time.
Consider this. For some kids, up to 90% of their time is spoken for. There are the non-negotiables like school, meals and sleep. Figure in the play dates, gymnastics, music lessons, Little League, dance class, travel teams, AYSO, art lessons, swim practice, Scouts, drama lessons. There isn’t a lot of time left over for make believe. There is practically no time left over for trying out independence or making a stab at conflict resolution or practicing assertiveness.
Sometimes, kids need grown-ups to just butt out. Sometimes, we should MOOB: Mind Our Own Business.
But we mean well.These activities can be great for kids and sometimes, they can even be fun. We want our kids to turn that double play and to play the Pachelbel Canon. Of course, they need to be able to do a front handspring and earn that orienteering merit badge. They must get those community service hours logged. We can’t have our kids left behind. They will thank us later, when they present a rich and well-rounded resume in this uber-competitive world.
And besides, they need us. Really. In so many ways. We can officiate, instruct, intervene. We are, after all, the grown-ups.
The truth is they do need us. They need us to keep them safe. They need us to help them make sound choices. They need us to support their efforts.
But they also need us to give them time to create an imperfect fort out of a refrigerator box. They need us to allow them time to settle a disputed call at third base. They need us to let them make–and fix– a few social mistakes.
They need this time to develop the individual self confidence that they will never pick up from an overly adult-directed childhood. They have to learn to trust themselves, to figure what to do and how to do it. A small study conducted by three German psychologists suggests that the most successful among us are those who have had ample time for unstructured play. [ http://www.psmag.com/navigation/books-and-culture/value-unstructured-play-time-kids-81177/ ]
We won’t always be around–nor should we be–to right their wrongs and chart a perfect course for them. Though it may be a tough pill to swallow, we have to understand that our job is to make ourselves obsolete.
So let them go play!