Posts Tagged ‘free play’

Let’s Be Bored!

Monday, January 25th, 2016

boredBetween library time, lessons, errands and groceries, many of our kids spend very little time unscheduled. Imaginative free play is very important for building self esteem and confidence in kids, yet many parents shy away from unstructured time. Let’s face it, leaving a toddler to their own devices is something that is not only frowned upon but also a little terrifying. I know my one year old is usually up to no good if allowed to roam freely. But unstructured playtime is very good for our modern kids.

Starting a toddler in an open-ended game–say tents and tunnels, pillow forts, or even blocks, and then stepping away when they begin playing on their own is an excellent way to help them get started. Leaving a few age-appropriate toys in a room for them is great too–it allows them to decide how and what to use and come up with a way to free play. This stimulates the decision and impulse control areas of the brain and allows the child to determine how and why things are done.

Staying home and allowing boredom to occur is another way to allow children and toddlers the time to decide what they truly wish to play with. I know I tend to be out of the house too often, with errands or activities, and my kids don’t get the time to truly immerse themselves into play. When we choose to stay home, I find my boys get wrapped up in make-believe, setting up things for themselves and day dreaming away the hours. Sometimes I find them thumbing through picture books, letting their imagination run wild.

Ways to Encourage Free Play

1. Keep the TV off. Even if the TV is on a show or channel that is not for kids, they will tend to pay attention rather than play. If your kids were watching a show and become absorbed in play, quietly turn down the TV and then turn it off.

2. Don’t “help” them. If your kids want you to solve play problems for them, like building a tall tower, drawing something, or changing a doll, encourage them to take the problem-solving lead and show you how. Praise their efforts when they do!

3. Rotate your toys. Kids love new toys, but their definition of “new” is anything they haven’t seen in a while. By keeping some toys out of sight and bringing them out when the toy selection gets stale, you can get that new-toy mileage out of the stuff you already have, and it also helps cut down on clutter.

4.  Bring out the open-ended toys. Remember when Legos used to come in buckets? No instructions, no pictures, no branding? Branded toys are easy for marketers to sell, but it’s toys like blocks, dolls, balls, and even cardboard boxes that allow children to let their imaginations run wild.

When we allow ourselves to be bored, we let the busyness go and children see us for ourselves. They see how we can pass the time by reading, knitting, cooking or enjoying a good long snuggle. And they learn to be content with what they have within arms’ reach instead of seeking more stimulation elsewhere.

Pia Watzig is a stay-at-home mom to three crazy boys ages 6, 3 & 1. She enjoys knitting, cooking and trying to wrangle her crazy kids. She lives in Portland, OR.