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How much time do your kids spend in free play (and what are their ages)? How much do you think is enough?”

9 replies so far...

  • Thank you for bringing up this topic!! It is an idea that I have been worrying over how I parent and how my in-laws interact with my daughter. I allow our oldest to have free play but she usually wants my attention anyway, which is great but trying to balance a newborn and get dinner ready until DH gets home is a little overwhelm - don't know how it is going to go down when I go back to work in a couple of weeks!

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Beaniemommie on 13th February 2010

  • When we are home, he pretty much can "free play" all he wants. His preschool is very structured and very disciplined so I think that the time he spends at home is best just doing what he feels like doing. Sometimes the play will involve a lesson, as in he seems to love his flash cards with animals but I let him pull them out himself.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by oceans mom on 1st February 2010

  • Interesting to see comments about Mom guilt for "too much free play." I am an older mom (kids born when I was 40) so I'm used to the idea that kids are quite OK, perhaps better off, without continual adult interaction / stimulation. I am glad to see this is getting more popular in the "free range mom" context. As far as working mom guilt goes, I was more on the side of "do I work too late to give my kids enough free time at home" versus "are my kids languishing without my focused attention at night." Interesting contrast.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by SKL on 31st January 2010

  • I'm a big believer in independent play. On the weekends, after a long hard week, I try to have us do something special like making cookies, doing crafts or engaging him to play kick ball. After that he freely plays on his own. The mom guilt does get me and the way I can reason this is that you can't always be your childs playmate. They need to entertain themselves. My son is 17 months old and has so much fun running from my living room to the den over and over again. And when his best bud, who is three,comes to play those two will play hours on end freely and without interruption.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Floridamom on 31st January 2010

  • I work from home two days a week, and on those days, my kids get *plenty* of time in free play. They have both played independently since early on, and they are now 5 and 2, almost 3. Often, my working mom guilt makes me think they have too much free play time, but honestly, I think overall they have a good balance. My 5 year old has a very vivid imagination, and my 2 year old could play with cars and trucks for days without interruption. We balance it out by playing together and doing things around the house on the weekends, so they get time with Mommy and Daddy, too.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mama Murtz on 30th January 2010

  • Most kids are good at squeezing "free play" in whenever, wherever. We used to hit the park for 45-60 minutes after daycare to let her run around, do whatever. Now she has free gym time at her afterschool program but gets to do free play while I make dinner (assuming all her homework is done).
    I could make her help with dinner but since there's so little unstructured time at home we concentrate cooking help on the weekends.
    If they're helping with dinner, taking over more cleaning themselves you can also work to make that more fun than duty. 3 years olds love to help; so it can be "who's helping tear lettuce, or who wants pour the water over the beans" rather than "your job is tearing the lettuce".
    Since you have two it can be a game "lets see who can get their hair cleaner" with you finishing up the spots that don't get done (unless they have super short cuts they really can't be expected to do it all on their own until they are more 4-1/2; if they have very long hair, around age 6).

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Mich on 29th January 2010

  • I almost think you might be a little too focused. If they engage in free play at school and have time at home to just be 3, incorporating new lessons in the household isn't going to break them. If their day is too structured (i.e. wake, breakfast, school with minimal play, home, chores, dinner, bed - this allows for almost no play time at all), it may hamper them some...but I recall being about their age, going to pre-school a few days a week and then being largely unferttered at home. I think 3 might still be a little young for most housework though (short of picking up their toys and helping a little bit with food preparation)...and washing their own hair? Do they have the fine motor skills to really be effective at that? I've never heard of kids bathing themselves (sanctioned by parents anyway) at such an early age.

    If you schedule too much of their time away, yes, it probably can be detrimental. I think ultimately that it's best to let them be, especially after a full day of directed play and education in school - and let THEM maximize their free time as they see fit. : )

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Phe on 29th January 2010

  • I honestly don't know how much really "free" play time my 3-year-olds have. At home, it's probably about an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening, on average. At "school," they have an academic focus, but they have a number of times during the day when the kids just play with supervision.

    I was wondering because they are at the age when their pretend play is really taking off. I feel the time they spend creating their "own little world" is really helping their minds to develop - especially when they have a nice, long stretch of uninterrupted, undirected time. I am wondering whether I should re-arrange schedules to maximize the length of this time, at least on some days. Or is it best to have multiple sessions of 30-45 minutes? I really don't know. When I was a kid, I had a WAHM and pretty much did whatever was convenient for everyone; I think I played for pretty long stretches of time.

    Trying to squeeze in new learning at this age too - helping more with the cooking and housework, washing their own hair, etc. - which puts additional pressure on the free play stuff.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by SKL on 29th January 2010

  • At Amelie's age, most of her days have been spent in free or Amelie-driven play. This can mean art or outside exploration; "reading" or being read to; games of her own invention. I think it's the most appropriate way for a child her age to learn.

    That being said, she starts day care in about a week and that will add more structure to her play time which, as she approaches age 2, is also good. Her center operates on a Montessori concept and I love that aspect of it because it allows her some of the freedom she already has and doesn't "force" a topic on her.

    Flag as inappropriate Posted by Phe on 29th January 2010