Where has “independent play” gone?

January 23, 2015 child anxiety

Where has “independent play” gone? I am not sure, but let’s bring it back! As a therapist, I am often left competing with hockey schedules, tournaments, a classroom birthday party, golf lessons, a mani/pedi with Grandma, karate, etc……you get the point. All these activities are great! The discipline that kids get from karate class….great! The sportsmanship they learn when belonging to a team….great! Grandma bonding time…..great! And, who doesn’t love birthday cake???

The point I am making is that we, as adults, tend to get stressed out when we notice our schedules are getting out of hand. Can we imagine having these schedules as a kid? I had an active childhood, but it was limited to a couple days a week. At times, I was left to my own devices to explore the world. Whether I was inside or outside, I was testing the boundaries of the world (which sometimes led me to a time out…sorry Mom!). I was getting to know the world. I learned that lawn chairs were great when it came time to build a fort. If you were lucky, you got the one that was most steady and provided a great deflection from a hose that was being pointed directly at your face by your brother. I challenged myself doing different tricks using a ball my Mom got at the corner store for $.99 (I always wanted the multi-colored one….they were the prettiest). In reality, I enjoyed these things because I had TIME to discover them. My brain was able to rest, grow, and develop.

At ten years old, I did not have the schedule of a full time employee AND student. In a sad reality, kids are not getting independent play in the classroom anymore. How can they? They need to know how to read chemical equations and how to balance a checkbook by the time they leave they 4th grade! (Don’t get me started on this!) We wonder why there is such an increase in children with anxiety!

Independent play sounds fancy, but it’s not. My Mom pulled it off with a $.99 rubber ball! Did your parents ever say, “All the toys in the world and you were always into the Tupperware!” (Yes, there are pictures). As pictured, you can use pool noodles. If you wait until after summer, you can get 2 pool noodles for $1! Cut them into different shapes and sizes and toss them in the bath. Kids love to stack them, pour water in them, and relax. Have an extra turkey baster in your drawer? Take the loss and toss it in the tub! A package of waterproof crayons cost about $5 and last for many, many baths, and the kids can practice their shapes, colors, and letters.

Wait, can independent play be educational, fun, AND done between 7:30 pm and 8pm? Yes, it can! Come back to this blog and let me know if you incorporated any independent play activities into your child’s schedule!