Today we call unstructured fun "free play." But many kids don't get nearly enough of it anymore, a growing chorus of child-development experts is warning. It may seem obvious that kids need to play. Trouble is, a lot of what passes for play lately doesn't quite cut it. "Playing" organized sports, for instance, isn't child-led or open-ended -- two key traits of true play. Neither is "playing" computer games -- and today's kids spend more time with computers, TV, and game screens than on any other activity except school and sleeping. Even babies miss playtime while watching "brain-building videos," going to classes, or being dazzled by toys that do the talking (and thinking) for them.
Nobody's suggesting that playtime should be another "to do" penciled on a parent's list and programmed into a child's day. Just the opposite, in fact. Providing it is as easy as stepping back and encouraging what comes naturally to your child, age by age.
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