Kids & Unstructured Play: Why Children Need Downtime for Mental Health & Learning Life Skills by Rae Pica
A child with downtime will engage in authentic play (self-chosen, self-directed and without extrinsic goals) alone and with others. Because play employs divergent thinking (a much-needed 21st-century skill), his problem-solving abilities will grow. If he has the time to carry out his plans and bring them to a conclusion, he’ll experience the satisfaction that comes from thinking things through and working them out.
A child without downtime will never learn to entertain herself and will never be able to live inside her own head. To deal with solitude or quiet time – essential for problem-solving, resiliency and restoration – she may feel she absolutely has to be in the company of others, even panicking at the idea of keeping herself amused.
When children's lives are scheduled and completely directed by adults, all they really learn to do is follow directions and do as they're told. If we want children to grow up to be resourceful, they have to start practicing now. That means they must have plenty of unstructured time during which they get to choose what they'd like to do – even if that means doing nothing!
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