For lots of reasons – the busyness of after-school activities, the prevalence of technology, parents micro-managing their children’s time, health and safety concerns, society’s view of what a ‘good’ parent is, the hothousing of kids and emphasis on academic learning and so on – we’ve seen a lessening of free play in the last 15-20 years.
Experts see this as a negative thing and are calling for a return to free play (loosely defined as ‘risky’, unstructured play with natural or re-purposed objects) because of its importance in emotional, physical and social development.
Evidence suggests free play develops independence, fosters resilience, teaches children about risk management (important if they’re to avoid real risk in the future), fosters creativity and builds confidence. More research is needed, but free play also seems to lead to better learning, better behaviour and greater brain development.
What’s not to love?!
Family violence is a heartbreakingly huge problem in New Zealand, with many thousands of women and children living in abusive situations, permanently on high alert and in constant fear for their safety.
Research tells us that if we’re confident talking to our children about sex and relationships from an early age, they are more likely grow up to be healthy, happy and sexually-responsible adults. They should find it easier to resist peer pressure and express their beliefs and values, delay sexual activity, have fewer sexual partners and be less likely to have an unplanned pregnancy or get a Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI).
As much as we hope for a stress-free life, there’s no avoiding the downs that accompany the ups. We all have to deal with stress, from the everyday trials through to the more serious challenges we all face at some point in our lives.
How well we deal with the challenges and disappointments in life comes down to something known as ‘resilience’ and the environment we create for our children helps to nurture this important trait.