Structured Play – # 4 of 7 Parenting Mantra that helped my sanity
Kids love to play & probably learn the most while they are playing. Sometimes these games & activities could be structured, pre-planned by parent or an instructor with a learning outcome in mind while sometimes it can be just a free play activity allowing the kids to explore & satisfy their curiosity. So, how does a kid learn better? By instruction based activities or by exploring on their own?
Well, both the methods can’t be compared or be in silos. They are both equally important for a child’s mental, physical as well as emotional development. Where on one hand structured activities are a great way to introduce kids to new concepts like shapes, colors, numbers, alphabets etc, free play is a great way to let kids learn about nature, environment, arts & social skills. The focus of this article is not contradicting between the two or proving that one is better than the other, but to share my personal experiences on how having structured activities helped my sanity as a parent.
Having knowledge & experience of working with kids once again came in handy as a parent for me. Subconsciously during all stages of development of my girls, I was always thinking about what are the milestones that they ideally should be achieving by that age. This constant awareness helped me design age appropriate activities for them early on and I started with Structured activities for them from as early as 4 months of age. They are 2.5+ years, have started to go to playschool after being exclusively home-schooled for a year, but still we love all the activities we do at home & everyday have an hour where we exclusively do planned & structured activities together.
Here are 5 Reasons why Structured activities is the time of day I always look forward to
- Having a specified time for instruction based structured activities has helped my girls eventually become more independent. Whenever I introduce a new concept to them, I just have to be with the them the first few times when the modelling of the activity & guided practice is happening. Once they understand how to do it, I can move away & they still keep busy on their own.
- Having known the milestones for each phase & working on helping them achieve those using structured play also made me more aware in case there was a gap in any development aspect. It’s a fact that the earlier any intervention starts in life, the more are the possibilities of filling in those gaps better. One of my twin has always been few months behind in achieving all her major milestones. Having activities planned specifically in area of that particular milestone helped her reach her milestones without any external intervention.
- Yes, it doesn’t start immediately, but eventually you have to worry less about children when you have something urgent & quick to finish – like some kitchen chores or washroom visit. I usually just give them a different variation of an already learnt activity that’s a little challenging so that they take some good 5 – 10 minutes of figure it out & meanwhile I can quickly finish what I need to. Sometimes even giving them books & making them ask each other “What is this?” questions based on the pictures in the book is a great activity to keep them engaged for long.
- And why just at home? Even outside home the habit of involving kids in structured play has paid off for me in past. During times when one of them has been sick, but us being nuclear we usually have to take both kids along to hospital / laboratories, it helps to carry some quick activities along to keep the other one engaged. One of my daughter has a gap in her social & communication skills thus has to go to regular therapy & we dont have anywhere to leave her sister behind. Carrying a Busy Bag to these sessions has made life so much sorted for her as well as for me. She sits at a place (Well, most of the time) and indulges in some activities rather than running around or getting bored.
- The most important reason why I believe in including structured play in daily schedule is it helps kids gain skills & confidence. Doing these activities together has also helped both my daughters learn to wait for their turn, offer to help & share resources. I feel like a child once again & I love the kind of giggles & bond we share while doing these activities.
This blog is written as a part of a series of 7 blogs on the theme of 7 Parenting Mantras that Helped my Sanity written as a part of Bar-A-Thon 2017.
Suggested Reading – You can read my views about Structured Play for Kids HERE. (Click for direct link)
As I mentioned, a balance is really important between structured & unstructured play. You can read views of Karuna Chauhan on Unstructured Play for Toddlers HERE. (Click for direct link)