Why parents may want to scrap children's busy summer schedules
Krystle Hewitt , CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, July 8, 2019 2:54PM EDT
School’s out for the summer and while parents look to keep their children occupied with camps and various extracurricular activities, one expert says it’s best to just let them play.
Allowing kids to go outdoors and engage in activities not led by a supervisor opens them up to skills needed later in life, such as creativity and emotional intelligence, said education strategist Dwayne Matthews during an interview with CTV’s Your Morning.
“The most important job skill is going to be fluency of ideas and to have fluency of ideas you have to use your imagination and be able to interact,” explained Matthews.
Another benefit ofunstructured play is that it fosters empathy,which allows children to develop their own relationships and ability to resolveconflicts.
“If you live a scripted a life, it’s very difficult for you to be empathetic to other people who don’t live in a way you do,” continued Matthews.
A child’s happiness and overall well-being can also be determined by having time to independently work through their emotions from a young age, without parents stepping in.
“It’s very important that we learn to sit with our emotions and let our emotions come to the surface and we can’t do that if we’re in a structured environment,” said Matthews.
Part of unstructured play is also allowing a child to be bored.
“Sometimes you just need to sit in the room, you need to be bored, you need to be staring at the ceiling and think about all the different things you’re going through; in school, in life and with friends. They need that downtime just to be unstructured,” said Matthews.
Clinical psychologist and associate professor of clinical psychology at York University John Eastwood agrees a certain level of boredom is healthy.
“Boredom is a normal human emotion, like every other human emotion and it’s there to guide us and make sure our needs are met,” said Eastwood during an interview with CTV News Channel.
Eastwood suggested not panicking when you or your child feels bored.
“Look for activities that require active participation and give expression to your curiosity, your creativity and your passion and stay away from passive entertainment,” said Eastwood.
So how do parents ensure their child has time for free play?
While working parents tend to sign their children up for summer camps during the day, they should look at cutting back on scheduled events in the evening.
“You have to give yourself permission to slow the schedule down. Having scheduled events is fine, one or two things, but you can’t schedule in all day, from start to finish,” advised Matthews.
Connecting with other nearby parents through online group chats and taking children outdoors can help because it allows them to move around from house to house on the same street without the constraints of a formal play date.
“It’s really important for kids to get outside with other children and just be amongst themselves and not with a supervisor or plan,” explained Matthews.
Matthews says it’s as simple as a parent taking a group of kids to a park and letting them come up with their own games.
“They learn to interact with each other; who leads and who follows which are all important skills for the future,” he said.