Eager to let your kids play outside but afraid of traffic? Strangers ? Injuries?
Our friends to the north -- our human friends, that is (but hi anyway, moose) -- have been thinking about not only why it is important for kids to play on their own, but how to responds to parental worries.
To that end, the Canadian Public Health Association, with support from the Lawson Foundation, wrote up a list of frequently asked questions/concerns about free play, along with responses grounded in evidence. For instance, if a parent worries that unsupervised play is dangerous, the association responds:
It is understandable you’re concerned for your child’s safety, and these concerns are appreciated. Children actually learn new skills when we allow them to engage in unstructured play, and they’re less likely to have more serious injuries later on. They are able to learn about their physical capabilities which allow them to rely less on adults to manage their environments.
Preventing access to unstructured play can deprive children of the opportunity to develop risk-management skills that are necessary for them to thrive as they grow older. These skills include learning how to navigate risky circumstances and environments, knowing personal physical limits, how to cooperate with peers, and solve unforeseen problems.
The association goes on to list relevant research results. For instance: "When children experience uncertainty in play, they can develop emotional reactions, physical capabilities, coping skills, and the capacity to manage adversity." And, "Children are more likely to get injured during organized sports than unstructured outdoor play." Each point is linked to a study.
In the scientifically driven times we live in, sometimes having a paper authority to point to really helps put things -- especially danger -- in perspective. The entire FAQ list can be handy when considering whether to give your kids or students more time to just goof around on their own.
Please let us know if you find it helpful!