Our children’s lives can easily become overscheduled to their (and our) detriment. Regularly making sure our kids have free time to play, imagine and wonder is sometimes a challenge but always worth the effort! Here’s why we should give our children wholesome play time and how to make it happen in our super busy, overscheduled lives. (Keep reading for a coupon code on some amazing, educational toys!)
There’s something about homeschooling that has me constantly analyzing and reprioritizing how our family spends our time. It’s probably because I’m often paranoid about sending my children off to college without proper preparation in one area or another!
But the benefit of this analysis is that I often change things up to see how it affects my kids’ behavior: does school time work better in the morning or afternoon? When are they most likely to do chores? What chore system works best and which older child can help which younger child? It requires neverending adjustments!
I’m often bemoaning modern kids’ lack of free time and thinking about ways to give my family more unscheduled hours. It’s definitely a battle between church obligations, academic work, time with friends and extracurricular activities. But I have noticed how much better my kids behave all across the board when they have unstructured free time.
Weed out the distractions
In my post about raising readers, I talked about a cool article that explains how we need to eliminate lots of easy distractions from kids’ lives. This way, they have to default to the “hard” learning or playing that their brains need.
It’s rare to meet a kid that would rather read a book than watch a movie or play video games. And what child will play with plain wooden blocks if beeping, interactive electronic toys are available?? I try to cut out electronic entertainment, friend time or even less-than-worthwhile books if they’re regularly keeping my kids from using their brains.
A quick note about the detox period of electronic media: it is real! My kids generally have to be off TV or video games for a full week before they start doing better. So if yours whine and complain and make you nutty after 2 days of no TV, just beware that it might get worse before it gets better! Haha. But it’s totally worth it.
I also try to often ask myself the “good, better, best” question: just because an activity we’re doing is good, doesn’t mean it’s the best use of our time. All the music lessons and sports teams won’t mean a thing if my kid can’t get along with his siblings. Too many “good” things in our days might actually be keeping my kids from the benefits of free play.
Add in the good
Now here’s the fun part! Adding in the wholesome, educational entertainment is easy, once the distractions are gone. Amazing book lists are all over the internet and nothing warms a mother’s heart more than seeing kids spend hours and hours reading great books.
Toys seem to be every mom’s nemesis. Can’t live with them (strewn all over your living room), can’t live without them (“I’m boooooored!”). But the thoughtful, careful accumulation of toys can also help our children more regularly use their minds.
Play is essential
I’ve often heard experts say that “play is children’s work”, meaning that they develop, grow and learn through play. The more chances they get to imagine, wonder, create and build, the smarter and more well-adapted adults they will become! On that note, let’s not forget that it’s our kids’ responsibility to entertain themselves, not ours! Our job is to feed, clothe, love and nurture our children, not provide endless sources of entertainment.
I recently discovered Petit Collage, a kid’s toy company that prides itself on amazing design and sustainable products. I LOVE their adorable toys and games that encourage free play and the use of imagination like these magnetics, pop out play sets, and puzzles. Aren’t they the cutest?? They’re perfect for allowing kids lots of chances for creative play time. (And check out their brand new organic plsuh toys for babies; no more chewing on plastic!)
You can use code “bonnie” for 15% off your purchase!
What other sorts of ideas do you use to help your children step away from the screens and use their little brains??
Disclosure: I was gifted these toys from Petit Collage in exchange for exposure and my honest opinion. As always, all wording and opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here.