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With school well underway, chances are, your children are enrolled into extra-curricular activities like dance, hockey or gymnastics.  There are many benefits for kids who participate in organized activities and sports, such as the discipline and social skills they learn. But have you considered the benefits of unstructured play in your child’s development?  Unstructured play is essential in cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children. 

Here are a few ways to incorporate unstructured play into your child’s schedule and the benefits of each:

Play has many health benefits- apart from healthy development, undirected play helps children practice decision-making skills, work collaboratively, inspires creativity and encourages peer interaction. The reason recess contributes to academic success is it encourages kids to get ready to learn new skills. For kids, play provides an opportunity for them to amuse themselves while preventing depression and anxiety.

 

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Know the right amount of extra-curricular activities for your child:- if all the extra-curricular activities your child is involved in is making you both stressed or unhappy, then it may be  time to reassess.  Being involved in different activities is a great way to identify what your child excels at and enjoys.  You may be able to determine this by participating in short term commitment classes or activities before signing up for the year.  Many community centers offer  open houses and or passes to various classes and activities.  

Create a balance- allowing your child personal play time does not take away from time spent participating in organized sports and activities. Kids are still reaping the physical and psychological benefits when engaging in unstructured play.  Creating a balance between structured activities and free play will allow your child to explore his or her interests without feeling pressured to excel in each sport or activity.

 

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Get fit with unstructured play- not all kids enjoy organized sports and activities, which is why it’s important to incorporate unstructured play into your daily activities. Unstructured activities are a fun way to get fit as a family, whether it’s playground fun, dancing or playing games outside. It encourages your whole family to get active and helps your child develop social and cognitive skills.

 

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Let your kids be bored-Letting your kids get bored forces them to use their imagination and discover new activities and experiences on their own.  A skill that will help them learn to be self-starters and problem solvers.

Involving your kids in organized activities and sports can create structure and routine, leaving some time for free or unstructured play can be just important in creating a well-balanced lifestyle.   Children today spend drastically less time outdoors playing than a lot of us did when we were young. Technology and video games, seem to have taken over our lives. . In order to keep our kids active and healthy, remember to build in time for unstructured play. It will go a long way towards building key social, emotional and cognitive skills. 

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