It’s no coincidence that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. In fact, unscheduled play is much more important than many parents may believe. Now that school is out for summer, education strategist Dwayne Matthews stopped by Your Morning to share the often overlooked benefits of letting the kids play with real freedom – that is, engaging with and learning from the world around them. According to Matthews, that kind of play is vital to a child’s development, equipping them with the skills necessary to tackle humanity’s future, such as emotional intelligence, creativity and problem solving.
Why kids should have unscheduled time
Fluency of ideas
The number one skill for jobs in 2030 will be fluency of ideas. As a result of the information revolution, information will increase exponentially, making the ability to create new and novel ideas will be extremely valuable. Children learn this when they have to come up with imaginative play with other children.
Empathy and EQ
A large barrier to empathy is living a life that is too scripted. Kids need time to develop their own relationships and have time to work out conflicts and differences and to experience different perspectives and temperaments.
When kids have more unscheduled time, they are able to bring emotions to the surface and learn how to process and work through them through reflection.
How to set up unscheduled time
Give yourself permission to slow down schedules
Over the summer leave some blank spaces. Even if you have to have kids in camp during the day, cut back on some of the scheduled things in the evening. Treat down time like an event in of itself and schedule that in.
The Whatsapp free play group
Find a few trusted parents on the street and start a free play group. During agreed times, kids can move from house to house in search of each other. When a kid leaves to go to the other house, just inform the other parent. If the other parent is busy, they’ll let the child know when they get to the door – or in some cases, the kids can let the child know. The key is that parents are informed and can look out, but not directly involved, and eventually the kids learn to move in groups back and forth.
Get the kids outside
Here in Canada we have so much green spaces – so many places to go outside! Use that Whatsapp group to encourage groups to go to the parks, where the kids can be kids, learn to play, talk and make up games.
Manage screen time
Digital technology is great, but so is managing screen time. It’s a good idea to set up limits on apps, on the screens and off times that are password protected so no one can wake up and sneak in a 3am Fortnite session.