Are we allowing our children sufficient time to be themselves? 

Should children have more opportunity to play and explore for themselves?  This is a thought provoking question posed by Dr Peter Gray, a research professor of psychology at Boston College. This debate is certainly not a new one and I doubt that there is one answer that fits every child but it does encourage parents to consider the best approach for their family.  

In a world where, increasingly, every moment of a child’s day is accounted for, where children are rushed from one activity to another, are we allowing our children time to play, to just ‘be’ and to think for themselves?

As a parent of young children myself I can see the strong temptation to schedule my children’s week through a series of afterschool activities where they will be stimulated and exposed to a range of new experiences.  Every other child around us seems to be learning new languages, playing a wide range of organized sports and living packed, busy lives. There is certainly a great deal to be said for such experiences and yes, my own children do partake.  To a point.

I doubt there are many parents in the world who would deny that it is vital to expose children to a range of experiences and that the stimulation that such opportunities afford are enriching.  As a teacher I love watching the children playing sports and enjoying the successes and team connections that such activities provide.  A child can be very different on the football pitch as opposed to the classroom.  I am a strong advocate for a balanced week.

My challenge lies in the news reports that suggest a longer school day for children where their time is taken up further with scheduled learning and formal schooling.  It continues to be tested by the demands for packed extra curricular weeks and a sense of failing our children by not supporting this schedule.

It is refreshing to see Dr Gray’s article that encourages parents to take the plunge and step off the treadmill, allowing their children time to play and use their own imaginations. 

At Tutoring Futures our clients often cite this as a main reason for opting to homeschool their children.  For some families, homeschooling is a lifestyle necessity as busy lives make attendance at mainstream schooling impossible.  For others though, to homeschool their child is a lifestyle choice.  Parents consider the type of education that they desire for their children and realize that it is possible to offer a stimulating, academically rigorous education whilst also encouraging free play, opportunities to explore areas of personal interest and stimulation that comes from freedom rather than restriction.  For some children this education path is hugely successful and the employment of a highly skilled and experienced private tutor is an ideal option.  If this is an educational path that you are keen to explore for your children, please do contact us to discuss this further.

Dr Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology at Boston College and author of the acclaimed textbook ‘Psychology’ (Worth Publishers). His recent book, ‘Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life’ (Basic Books, £18.99), is available now.