In the modern world, so much of our time is planned and scheduled allowing for little ebb and flow given the pace at which our working and personal lives often move along at. The same is true for our children, with unstructured time more often than not being at a premium.
Medical research suggests that unstructured time is crucial for a child’s healthy development. Just as being mindful allows us an opportunity to live in the moment, to simply enjoy being; time to be bored, gives children a chance to explore their inner and outer worlds, to express themselves creatively. It is through this language of expression which children learn to engage with themselves, to notice the world around them, to imagine, to invent and to create.
A child who is always taught how to do something or who is always given the answer to a problem will generally not take responsibility for their own thoughts and ideas. This is equally applicable to a child who is always directed in their play. This child will not have an opportunity to explore their own interests or thoughts, preventing them from accessing the limitless bounds of their imagination. There would be no battles with prehistoric beasts, no building of castles with high walls, no marvelling at the formations of clouds or chasing of shadows.
Unstructured time not only provides children with a chance to dream but comes hand in hand with a growing independence, a sense of self, an ability to choose and to control or manage time.
The US author Nancy Blakey describes life as being “bound by what we can envision”, highlighting the importance of giving every child the freedom to play, the time to imagine and the right to enjoy their childhood.
“If we sit still long enough, we may hear the call behind boredom. With practice, we may have the imagination to rise up from the emptiness and answer.”
-Nancy H. Blakey