Why You Should Add Free Play to Your Schedule
May 14, 2020
Not long ago, we wrote about the importance of adding free play into your kids’ schedules. We hope we inspired you to take some of the pressures off yourself to be your children’s full-time teacher and caregiver while also trying to work from home (or out of the home) and manage a household, among the many other obligations we parents have these days. After all, kids are natural learners – they don’t need us to curate Pinterest-worthy experiences for them. In other words, they’re going to be OK.
But what about you? As you navigate this unprecedented global crisis while trying to do the impossible (work and teach and wrangle your kids), are you making sure you add free play to your schedule, too?
Early childhood education is our expertise, but we know that there’s a lot we can learn from how kids learn that we can apply to our adult selves. “We all need play. Play adds joy to your life, relieves stress and connects you to others. It helps us build community, improves cognitive function and increases creativity. Play makes us happy!” says Sandy Graham, Director of Training at Kiddie Academy.
This isn’t meant to overwhelm you as we suggest yet another thing to add to your to-do list. What it is meant to do is give you permission to shed any sense of duty you feel to always be productive and purposeful.
Play Is Different Than A Hobby
Part of the problem with play – especially in an adult’s eyes – is that play is synonymous with “hobby.” And hobby means you need lots of time carved out. It means you need supplies. It means you need to research. It implies you do something regularly and make improvements. Hobbies are wonderful things – but they also come with a fair amount of pressure. The difference between play and hobby is that play is zero pressure. You might be able to schedule play, but it might come about effortlessly and you might be elbow-deep in it before you realize “hey, this is play!”
So what do you do next? Well, first of all, please promise us you won’t make it into a big thing and put all kinds of pressure on yourself. No one needs that right now. In fact, we’re suggesting the opposite.
Take the pressure off.
- If the thought of doing this one more thing stresses you out, don’t do it until you can view it as a gift to yourself, rather than a chore you must complete.
Acknowledge that play is effortless.
- The more you look for ways to play to check off the box, the more it will feel like a burden.
The next time you say to yourself, “I should stop this and start that…” notice the thought and whatever this is, you may want to keep doing it.
- Because it’s probably enjoyable and it just might be play.
Play alone or with others.
- Playing alone can be deeply satisfying, especially if you’ve already been interfacing all day on video conference calls. But playing with others (in the case of social distancing, your immediate family members) can be relationship-building.
Play isn’t about the outcome
- It’s about the process. Just because you bought a loom with big dreams of weaving intricate fabrics to make your own ponchos doesn’t mean you’re obligated to use it during play time – unless you want to. But whatever you do, remember – the number of ponchos you make by the end of the week isn’t a measure of how productive your play time was. We long held the belief that learning can happen anytime, anywhere.
That’s why we have said time and time again: We have a designated time for learning. Always.®
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The learning doesn't stop for parents, either. That’s why we created an information resource with helpful tips on everything from enriching our STEM program at home to introducing lifelong healthy eating and fitness habits.