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5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play
5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play
My kids are pretty active and as a result they are involved in a lot of activities. We have a hectic schedule and it feels like some days we spend the entire day in the car going from activity to activity without a lot of downtime.
The most important thing to me as a parent is that my kids have time to be kids. No homework. No electronics. No pressure. Just good old-fashioned play. Unstructured play.
“There is a kind of problem solving that happens in play that is unpredictable. Play supports learning in ways that structured tasks cannot” shares Amy Parks, assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Georgia.
Here are a few ways that we manage to get in as much unstructured play as possible in my household.
1. Let them lead.
We love to let our kids lead and make plans. In fact, we do this quite a bit alternating which kid gets to make the plans although sometimes they do like to work together to come up with a plan.
For instance, when we got to the beach for spring break, the first thing that I did was to have the kids pick some things that they wanted to do while we were here. I had the kids talk amongst themselves and come to us with ideas. My son came and said, “Do we have to plan anything? Can we pick things as we go along?” My husband and I thought that was the perfect plan so of course we said yes.
2. Send them outside and keep them hydrated.
We have mandatory outside time at our house every Saturday and Sunday no matter what the weather is like. We walk around the neighborhood, feed the ducks in the pond and just generally hang out as a family. We have discovered some pretty amazing places in and around our neighborhood.
To keep us all hydrated, we keep a well-stocked cooler in the open garage during those hot summer days. We fill it with CAPRI SUN. On a really hot day, my kids love nothing more than a slightly frozen CAPRI SUN Organic in Grape. They ask for them by name and flavor. I have to admit, that I have tried them myself and they are really good.
3. Give them what they need to be active.
At our house, we have the motherlode of outdoor toys so that the kids always have something different to do every day. We want them to be able to pick and choose exactly what they want to do when they go outside.
- Ride bikes
- Ride skateboards
- Play cornhole
- Play Frisbee
- Jump rope
- Play basketball, volleyball or lacrosse in the yard
- Play badminton or croquet
- Fish in the pond next door
- Watch birds and other animals
- Shoot waterguns
4. Declare a “no electronics” time period.
The best thing that my husband and I have ever done for our family was to declare a “no electronics” period. Every day in our home, there are no electronics allowed from 5-8pm. This means everyone is powered down and they have to find things to do that do not involve iPads, TV, video games, etc. You wouldn’t believe how many plays and shows my kids have created during these times. My kids turned off electronics and the creativity just flowed.
5. Get in the car and go.
Every time we take a road trip and go on vacation, we have a day where we just get in the car and go. We have no plans but we drive in the car until everyone agrees on an activity to do together. On our last vacation, we ended up ziplining for the entire day and the kids still mention it as the best vacation day ever.
It is always amazing to me how much of an impact unstructured play has on the wellbeing of my children. They are happier, well adjusted and I am convinced that they sleep better.
More on CAPRI SUN Organic
I wanted to share a little more about what we are drinking. CAPRI SUN Organic is made with 66% juice plus has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. There is no added sugar and it is sweetened only with fruit juice. You get 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.
CAPRI SUN Organic offers kids a taste they will love and gives parents a wholesome option. Find Capri Sun Organic nationwide for $4.29 for a 10-pack of 6-ounce pouches in the following flavors: Fruit Punch, Tropical Punch, Apple and Grape.