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Why unsupervised play is important and a good thing. 5 ways it benefits kids and helps them develop a spirit of adventure.
This is a sponsored post about unsupervised play, created by me in partnership with Genius of Play. If you'd asked me if I felt comfortable allowing my kids to play unsupervised a few years ago, I probably would've said no. Life brings change, though, and with it, growth.
Over the last few years, I've watched our older boys gain a sense of exploration as they've worked on forts in the woods and built roads in the dirt. Jacob, especially, has developed a love for trying new things.
Looking back, I can definitely see a change in our boys as we gradually loosened the reins and let them roam free. Not that we don't know where they are and not that they're always out of sight… But we've given them a sense of freedom to do more.
I had to get past my own fears as a parent.
Back in the day, I remember my mom sending me outside and probably sometimes locking the door behind me. I was forced to go out and play.
Not that I didn't love it… My point is, while there were still bad things that happened to kids even back then, she didn't let it consume us. She gave us kids the freedom to go out unsupervised and play and explore and sometimes get into trouble and sometimes discover the most amazing things.
Nowadays I'll be the first to admit it's scary. Of course, I'm not advocating unsupervised to the point of being dangerous. And I'm not advocating unsupervised play for itty bitty ones.
What I am advocating is letting our kids, who are old enough to do so, go out in the backyard without us. Let them try new things without our constant hovering. Encourage them to build something even if they totally screw it up. Give them the time and freedom to explore the neighborhood, to ride their bikes, to build a fort in the woods, to have fun and be a kid.
Unsupervised play benefits kids (and if you think about it, us as parents) in 5 ways.
1. It gives kids the freedom to explore and discover new things.
Sure, there's no telling what our kids will get into and what they'll find. But they may find something that piques their interest. Maybe they'll find a toad and want to check out every book in the library on amphibians. Maybe they'll discover a line of ants marching back to their colony. Or maybe they'll start to develop an eye for and an interest in edible plants. The possibilities are endless.
2. It gives kids the room to be creative.
Without our constant hovering as parents, kids learn to be creative. Building that fort in the woods is quite the creative process, let me tell you. We've watched Jacob take up both baking and gardening, putting his own special touches on everything he makes and formulating a plan for his garden. Unsupervised play encourages creativity and sometimes leads to hard work, which is a good thing!
3. It helps kids learn to problem solve and think for themselves, maybe even outside the box.
Without Mom or Dad holding their hand, they have to figure out how to make whatever it is they're doing work or figure out a different way to go about it. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for, and they can totally surprise us if we let them.
4. It fosters independence but also a bond between siblings.
It gives kids a little bit of freedom, and it helps us as parents learn to let go, a little bit at a time. It's all about babysteps. It also creates and develops a bond between siblings when they're spending time together without the presence of their parents. They start to watch out for each other and have each other's back in a way that only siblings can.
5. It allows kids to develop a sense of adventure.
If there's one thing I want my kids to develop, in addition to a spirit of kindness, it's a spirit of adventure. I want them to not be afraid to try new things. I also want them to get out and live a life of adventure. Unsupervised play plants the seed for an adventure filled life.
Here's how some other parents feel about letting kids play unsupervised…
Looking for more ways to encourage your kids to play?
- How to Encourage Active Imaginative Play with Your Kids
- Super Fun Ways to Make It a Screen-Free Summer Afternoon
- 4 Ways to Encourage Creativity and Imagination in Kids