Why parents need to let kids play on their own

Why parents need to let kids play on their own
From Global News - October 5, 2017

Soccer on Mondays and Thursdays, dance class on Tuesdays and Fridays, Girl Scouts on Wednesdays and art camp on the weekendssprinkle in school, homework and screen time and you have one tightly packed schedule for a kid.

All that scheduled structured playtime might not seem shocking to many parents (in fact it might even be considered a blessing), but experts say it is and it is harming kids more than parents believe.

According to a new survey by toy company Melissa & Doug and analytics organization Gallup, parents arent fully appreciating unstructured child-led playtime and would much rather choose structured activities to keep their kids occupied and days filled to the brim.

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Todays children are experiencing unprecedented levels of pressure, anxiety, and depressionall stemming from a lack of self-confidence, resilience, independence, connection and sense of self, Melissa Bernstein, co-founder of Melissa & Doug, said in a statement. We may think we are protecting them from being bored or falling behind, but ultimately we are preventing them from the open-ended experiences that allow them to discover themselves, their passion and their purpose.

The survey interviewed 1,000 adults over the age of 18 with kids up to 10 years of age in Canada, Australia and the U.K. and asked them what they thought of different types of play children engage in.

When it comes to unstructured play, 57 per cent of parents believe the only skill children get out of it is creativity. Only three in 10 believe children develop problem-solving, self-confidence and other skills (art, athletics, etc.).

But when asked to identify which of the 12 qualities are the most and least important for children to develop by the age of 10, 63 per cent said the most important was self-confidence, followed by social skills (46 per cent) and academic skills (42 per cent). Only 28 per cent identified creativity as an important skill followed by problem-solving (24 per cent).

And when it comes to boredom, only about one in five parents strongly agree that its good to let children be bored. And when this happens, oftentimes parents will jump in with potential activities.

Sometimes that involves intervening with television, smartphones and other screen time devices.

According to surveyors, children in the U.K., Australia and Canada average about 19 hours a week of screen time, however over 40 per cent of parents would prefer that their child plays outside or do things with a parent or another adult.

(The Canadian Paediatric Society does not recommend children under two have screen time. Children between two and 5 years should only have less than an hour per day of screen time.)

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