Strike a Balance with Playtime This Summer

Finally, the great weather has arrived. The schools are almost out, and young Heroes everywhere are counting down to the moment when their summer freedom begins, and they get to spend more time outside, exploring, making new friends and feeding their imagination.

To children, play is more than a luxury; it’s a must-have. To them, play is what fuels their energy and their creativity. Play fuels their life.

With play being such a vital aspect of our children’s worlds, there couldn’t be a better time to celebrate National Physical Fitness and Sports Month this month. Now is the perfect time to spread the power of play, share the benefits that surround physical activity and challenge other Guardians to take part.

Different Types of Play:

“Play” can be broken down into two core pillars: structured and unstructured. Both serve an essential role in the physical and mental growth of our Heroes, so what functions do each play?

Structured Play

Simply put, structured play is playing with a purpose. This type of play tends to be instructor-led and helps develop a specific set of skills, such as time management, teamwork and how to follow directions. Some of the more well-known versions of structured play include pre-scripted play dates, planned activities and sports. Structured play tends to be scheduled, predictable and more-or-less hands-off regarding parent involvement (depending on parenting styles and preferences, of course).

Sports teach teamwork, communication, sacrifice and perseverance. Sports are not always available to all children, especially in a consistent and scalable way, but structured play gives Heroes a beautiful experience that plays a pivotal role in their growth.

Unstructured Play

Then, there is unstructured play, which we sometimes call “free time” or “letting kids be kids.” It combines imagination, make-believe and freedom. It means dressing up as a superhero, running around your front room, or jumping off the couch as you fight an evil villain that happens to be your puppy. It’s every single thing that you think childhood could be.

Unstructured play is riding your bike to feel the wind in your hair, or building the world’s tallest Lego tower only to wonder what it would look (and sound) like when it comes crashing down. It’s about dreaming and creating fun the way a child wants to. This type of play may not look like it accomplishes much, but it possesses powers that no structured sport, play date or event can provide.

When children are playing freely like this, they are the ones in charge; they make the rules, dictate the game flow and control the context. They navigate their environment.

The independent thought of a child is robust and allows them to create worlds that yet to exist, but there has been a steady decline in unstructured play. Despite the known benefits, due in part to the increased pressure on children to perform both in and outside of the classroom, by limiting children’s amount of unstructured playtime, we are doing them a disservice and robbing the world of their creativity and imagination.

The Importance of Free Play:

According to TIME Magazine, “free play encourages the development of the two skills no robot can replace: creativity and teamwork.” These are two of many skills learned through unstructured play, both of which are beneficial and additive to structured sports, the classroom, activity groups and life beyond our childhood years. Striking a balance between unstructured and structured play benefits kids not only in the short term, but more importantly for the long haul. A holistic experience with play sets kids up for success later in life, because it gifts them with the ability to make their own decisions, be confident in who they are and permits them to follow their dreams.

This month, we challenge all Guardians to get outside of your comfort zones and be intentional about putting a little extra unstructured playtime on the calendar.

Join your Hero to build a Lego tower, speed down hills on your bikes or construct an imaginative world of unparalleled magnitude. Because someday, you may just find yourself living in it.

Super Heroic believes the gift of unstructured play should be accessible to all. Through our products, experiences and imaginative content, we strive to give all children the ability to experience, display and celebrate their transformation into the Heroes they are within.