The Importance of Play and Practical Tools for Parents
Life in today’s world is hurried, and the pressures put upon children to succeed can be overwhelming. In many communities, it isn’t uncommon for parents to overschedule their children with extracurricular activities that they feel can enrich the children’s knowledge and experience. Unfortunately, what becomes lost in this arrangement is the child’s need for free play. When there is no room in the day for free play, children suffer. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, “play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Play is so crucial to child development that the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right that every child deserves.
What is free play? Briefly, it is the kind of play that is child-centered. It is initiated by children and guided by children. Free play doesn’t involve screens or electronics, isn’t scheduled, and isn’t controlled or directed by adults. Free play is play that just happens. It can be an individual kind of play devised by one child, or it can be a cooperative effort on the part of a group of children. While adults may be invited to engage in free play with children, the children themselves must be the ones who direct the activities. Free play can come in any shape or form, but parents who wish to help encourage free play can provide children with tools to assist.
In the view of many parents, backyard swing sets are one of the best tools children can use for free play. With a swing set, children can initiate and engage in play, whether alone or with friends, and still be under the secretly watchful eye of mom or dad. Swing sets come in a wide array of configurations, so finding one that offers the desired features is easy. Wood swing sets are most common for backyard use, but metal swing sets are available as well. The most basic swing sets are equipped with a couple of swings and a trapeze bar or rings, but parents can also opt for more features. A club house, slide, and monkey bars are common additions that parents want for their children’s backyard swing set. Other accessories can be added, of course, to meet the individual needs of the family. Some of the options can include a climbing apparatus, different types of swings, or an attached sandbox. Pretend play can be encouraged with the addition of accessories like a telescope, steering wheel, or vinyl playhouse enclosure for the swing set’s existing club house.
Children are wonderfully creative and can use free play time to exercise their imagination. Swing sets are just one tool for free play that parents can provide to children, but they are a particularly powerful tool. Swing sets, in addition to encouraging imaginative free play, also encourage active play. On a swing set, children are required to move their bodies as well as their minds, and this goes a long way toward developing the whole child.
When it comes down to it, though, time is the most important tool that parents can provide their children to encourage free play. Allowing more time for children to engage in their own imaginative play will benefit their development far more meaningfully than a day filled with extracurricular activities ever could.