Free Play Means Creative Thinking
Elementary School, Great for All Ages, High School, Middle School, Parent Tips, Social Life, The Happy Student Podcast

Free Play Means Creative Thinking

Unstructured after-school activities where kids just get to play is great for kids to develop creative problem solving skills and communication skills. Free play is also great for helping kids relax, fighting anxiety, and reflecting and storing all the information they learned that day. Often kids don’t get enough free play in their lives, so if you find an after-school activity just for play, that’s a great way to help your kid have more fun, be a kid, and learn some really important skills that often get missed out on at school and in other after-school activities!

Finding the right after-school activity can be hard. What if your kid isn’t doing enough extracurriculars? What if she’s doing too many? Does he really need to be doing any at all if he doesn’t want to? In this post, we talk about why after-school activities are great for your kids, how to figure out if your kid is doing too many, and what to do if your kid isn’t interested in them at all.

Why are after-school activities beneficial for kids?

  1. Socializing
  • If the activity is something your child is interested in and what the other children are interested in, then it can help build friendships.
  • Having healthy friendships is important to academic success. If kids feel secure in their relationships and that they have friends, they don’t need to waste time at school worrying about their social lives.
  1. Free Play Means Creative Thinking
  • Free play after-school activities help kids develop creative problem solving skills and communication skills.
  • It also will help kids relax, fight anxiety, and reflect and store all the information they learned that day.
  • Often kids don’t get enough free play in their lives, so if you find an after-school activity just for play, that’s a great way to help your kid have more fun, be a kid, and learn some really important skills that often get missed out on at school and in other after-school activities!
  1. Deep Dive & Deliberate Practice
  • After-school activities can help kids take a deep dive into learning a skill and then work on deliberate practice to help them improve that skill.
  • Deliberate practice: where your child is figuring out where her weaknesses are and working to improve those areas.
  • Once kids learn what deliberate practice is, they can use deliberate practice in other areas, like studying.
  1. A Break!
  • After-school activities provide a break from schoolwork.
  • Breaks can then help them be more productive later, instead of trying to ‘power through’, which isn’t actually a thing according to neuropsychologists.
  1. Teamwork & Strategy
  • Some after-school activities build teamwork and communication skills as well as help develop strategic thinking like “What’s the other team good at? How will we defend against that?”

Why are after-school activities beneficial for parents?

  1. It can help your child develop some important skills, like the ones mentioned above.
  • Your kids develop these skills in a safe environment.
  • These skills include some that the child does not get during a traditional school day.
  1. Your child will be more productive when they come home.
  • This break can help reduce the amount of fights over starting homework.
  1. If the after-school activity is at school, you don’t need to interrupt your day to go get your child to bring them home or to the activity.

What should parents consider when organizing after-school activities for kids?

  • This activity should be almost entirely your child’s choice. If your child is unsure what they want to do, come up with 3-5 options based on their personal preferences.
  • It’s also important to think about how many after-school activities your child is participating in and how long they each go.
    • If your child is constantly exhausted and needing a rest, but not ever able to get one, then he’s probably in too many after-school activities, especially ones that aren’t free play.
    • Fireborn recommends that your child be getting home by 5 pm four days a week until high school.
    • To figure out if they are in too many or too few activities, ask the following questions: Do your kids have time to do their homework? Do they have time to rest? Are they bored? Do they have a ton of energy? Where is that energy coming from? Do they simply have a ton of energy or is it because they are anxious? Do they need to do more active activities or do they need more time to relax? Is my child stressed by the after-school activities or looking for more stimulation? Especially for younger children, you want a good mix of structured activities and unstructured, free play/relaxing activities.

What should parents do if their kids really don’t want to do any after-school activities?

  • If your child does not want to do it, it’s probably best not to force them.
  • You want to think about why your child doesn’t want to do any after-school activities.
    • Is it because they need some quiet time at home after an over-stimulating day at school?
    • Or are they worried about bullying? If they are worried about bullying, find an activity they can get involved in where there aren’t any kids that are teasing your child already and where you kid has the opportunity to meet new kids in a less scary way (think individual sports, like chess, tennis, or swimming).
  • Find an extracurricular activity that your child’s friend is also doing. Have your child try the activity for a week or two. After two weeks, you can circle back and decide if it’s time to find something else to do or something your child wants to continue .
    • Just getting kids to go once to see it’s really fun is often all they need to want to keep going.

You can learn more on The Happy Student Podcast Episode #52: Figuring Out After-School Activities!

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