Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How Do Your Kids Play?

A friend shared a blog this morning about the importance of unstructured play by the Grass Stain Guru through this link. At first, the blog caught my eye, because the picture at the top reminded me of my visits to China. With that thought in the back of my mind, I read the blog and reflected on the difference between the way we are raising our children and the way the children in our rural foster care homes are being raised.

My children have toys, video games, and activities to fill their days….the children in our rural Chinese foster homes have very little toys bought at a store. I have often thought about how creative these children are in these homes, because even though they don’t have a lot of material things, they are always playing and laughing when I have visited. They are happy and I am in awe of their inventiveness. So many things become their play.

The author of this blog writes that “Unstructured play teaches creativity, independence, problem solving, communication skills, risk assessment, negotiation skills, a host of social concepts, and adaptability. The list goes on and on.”

So this has me thinking….are we doing our children a disservice with all we do for them? How do we change the way we are raising our children and slow down, so that there is more time for creative play? In the end, will the children who have so many “things”, so many activities, and so much structure, be ultimately less creative than a child that has had to invent more of their play?


  1. I think there's a balance for everything. :) My siblings seem to divide their time between zombie-ing it out in front of the TV and creatively making up games with cardboard boxes and broken twigs.

    Just yesterday I caught my 3-year-old brother on the floor with a alphabet coloring book, going through every page all by himself and tracing and sounding out all his letters. The educational "things" like workbooks and our Leap Frog DVDs can really make a difference!! (That's why LWB's education fund rocks, of course.)

  2. My family room floor is most likely to be covered with Littlest Pet Shop or Polly Pocket toys...where my 7 & 5 year olds will create all kinds of imaginary worlds, so toys and material things don't prevent creativity. My 5 year old, home from China only 16 months has benefited greatly from kids software to help her bridge her language and developmental gaps.

    I believe as parents, we need to limit TV and computer time. More importantly, we need to model how to make fun play out of nothing. I remember making doll houses out of cardboard boxes with scraps of fabric for curtains, matchboxes as furniture, etc. My older daughter & I pretend we are on a cooking show while we make dinner together.

  3. Thank you for your great comments. I agree that there is a balance in how we let our kids play. We also try to limit screen time. I find that with our second set of kids, that we are more careful about how many activities we schedule, partially because we are a larger family, but also because I feel that the kids need the down time too.