Americans are busy people. We run to and fro at a high rate of speed. We over-schedule our days all in an effort not to miss anything. We thrive on productivity, a concept that is often confused with “a lot of harried movement.” As a culture we unfortunately no longer value “downtime”/ “free time” or “play time” as much as we do “commitments”, “schedules” and long to-do lists. We are turning a blind eye to the life-long benefits of learning through play.
Taking a breather, being present in the now, or as I like to say: “Be Where You Are” is a luxury, when it should be a common occurrence. We are now passing this lifestyle on to our next generation. Our children have social calendars that rival the most popular rock stars’. They have homework, pastime activities, tutoring, practices, games, shows, recitals… one commitment after another… Somewhere along the line we forgot to carve out time for PLAY. Our kids are so busy and over-scheduled that “play time” is left a dust cloud of “extra curricular activities.”
Americans (and I am generalizing, of course) have a lot to learn from the Danish way of parenting. “Free play” is one of core pillars in a Danish child’s life. It is sacred and considered as important as eating and sleeping. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing one of the authors of “The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World,” Iben Sandahl. She shared invaluable insight on the importance of “free play” for Danish children.Learning through #play, the #Danish Way! @TheDanishWay @LEGO_Group #Parenting Click To Tweet
Learning through play, the Danish way:
What are the three major benefits of “free play”?
1. Children learn to cope with stress and be more resilient. They test themselves to see how much stress they can handle, this makes them better at coping with stress later in life.
2. They learn self-control. Children who play with other children really want to keep the game going. If there are difficult kids or the rules have to be negotiated and re-negotiated, the children will need to practice self-control (a valuable life skill) to stay in the game.
3. They are learning! Especially when there are kids of different ages. Play is teaching them so much. Kids learn skills and lifelong lessons by playing on their own, a benefit overlooked by countless cultures, unfortunately.
How can Americans incorporate more “free play” into their child’s day?
Not feeling like they have to over-schedule kids’ lives with activities. Take them out into nature, real nature, and let them run wild. Put the technology away and have them use their imaginations. You would be amazed what kids come up with. It’s incredibly healthy for them to explore their own minds in play. The key is not to structure everything for them.
How does LEGO toys fit into the Danish way of parenting?
LEGO is a huge part of growing up in Denmark. The name “LEGO” comes from the words “leg godt” (play well). The Danish LEGO makers clearly realized the importance of play in a child’s development.
What skills do children develop by playing with LEGO?
LEGO is made to take children to the next zone of proximal development. Once they have mastered one kind of LEGO toys they can move onto something more difficult. It is a wonderful way to play with your children and help them reach those next levels.
There you have it, my friend. Our kids NEED more play time, free time, unscheduled, unorganized and unstructured hours. Kids are meant to learn through play!
With that in mind, comment on this blog post and let me know how you and your child will enjoy free play today.
I spoke earlier with Iben about how to “Raise Happy and Confident Children, the Danish Way“, she gives incredibly useful advice. Check it out here!
You know by now that our family LOVES LEGO. These particular LEGO sets encourage constructive “free play”:
The book The Danish Way of Parenting: A Guide To Raising The Happiest Kids in the World is available on Amazon.com. Get your copy today, so you can be on your way to raise happy and confident children too! (It’s all the rage, I promise you!)
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