Spending more time outdoors, preferably in natural settings, may be the simplest, healthiest, and most economical remedy for the terrible increase in numbers of children diagnosed with social, emotional, and learning problems over the past two decades. It may also be the answer to many problems suffered by adults in our increasingly rushed, technology-focused lives. And on a global scale, there’s evidence that more people spending more time in natural spaces would contribute to solving the environmental challenges that are increasingly disrupting our lives.
Play Outside! Twelve Ways to Health, Happiness, Intelligence, and Creativity, and to Environmental Sustainability
If you want your child to grow up to be confident, co-operative, intelligent, creative, and successful, protect his playtime from all the encroachments of life in a fast-paced, ambitious, technologically wired world.
Playtime is one of the most cost-effective investments a parent can make in a child’s education. It requires nothing more than time, space, and imagination. It does require your faith in her inner strength, her capacity to make her own fun; it requires stepping back and letting your child discover who she is, what she enjoys doing, and the ability to pursue her own interests.
While parental support for learning is enormously important to kids’ success, that can be tragically overdone. Instead of being filled with spontaneous improvisation and discovery, children’s time is increasingly being scheduled by adults and gobbled up by electronic devices. By robbing kids of ample time for imagination, exploration, and collaborative invention, we are taking away essential opportunities for them to develop the skills required for real achievement and fulfillment over time.
Time is much more valuable than money. It is the stuff of life, the basic currency. And how we spend it makes all the difference not only to our own health and well-being, but also to our children’s experience and development.
By slowing life down to a child’s pace, parents support their children in finding and becoming their best selves. So instead of looking for ways to jam more activities and achievements into a busy life, I’m taking a read through Brianna Wiest’s eighteen ideas, and thinking about ways to implement the ones I’m not doing yet.
Free play should be bumped up in priority—ahead of organized sports, lessons, and other extracurricular activities designed to assist in kids’ résumé-building. In a new book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life, Peter Gray makes the point that free play is vital to children’s healthy development.
Another report of research (this one from Soren Ashley and Joel Pearson) showing the importance of time for reflection, and consolidation of learning. Although effort, practice, and persistence are all prerequisites for learning, it seems that all work and no play really does make Jack a dull boy, in the sense of not as smart as he would be if he had more time for play.
A quote from the article:
‘Learning a new skill involves rewiring of the brain, a phenomenon called neural plasticity. For the new skill to persist, those brain changes must be stabilised or consolidated by being transferred from short-term memory and locked into long-term memory. “If the information and/or neural changes are not adequately consolidated, then learning will be temporary or not occur at all,” the researchers say.’
Tiger Mothers and other parents who are ambitious for their children’s academic success, take heed! Your child isn’t necessarily being lazy when she tells you her brain needs a rest. There’s some interesting new research showing that overtraining without ample time for rest and reflection reduces learning: