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Should Playgroups be Structured?

Some playgroups like to structure their time. Some moms enjoy planning activities and learning opportunities while others appreciate the time to chill, watch the kids play, but otherwise stay out of their way and have some “mom time.” Which is better? It’s not really a matter of better, but there is something to be said for unstructured play. Scienceblogs.com recently featured an article based on a study published Development Psychology. The study found that unstructured playgroups found a surge of imagination, exploration, and creative thinking far more than the structured playgroups that were observed in the study.

According to a 2007 study in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers at the University of Washington, playing helps with language development. Free play or “empty time” allows a child to find how they enjoy playing and this can lead to understanding how your child learns.

You can also “lead” unstructured play by offering a setting or objects to play with and then sitting back and allowing the children to figure out what they’d like to do.

Suggestions:

- Have a Lego Day. Combine everyone’s Legos (might want to leave those very special pieces at home and know how many you came with). See what the kids come up with—restrain from trying to get them to make a rocket ship—let them figure it out how to problem solve.

- Have a cookie or cupcake decorating party and let the kids design their own cupcake combinations.

- Host a fruit and veggie art party. Bring those digital cameras and let the kids create their own edible art.

- Create “nature” art. Gather pinecones, wildflowers, and plain old weeds and let the kids come up with table settings and home art you can take home and decorate your house with.

- Host a dress-up day. Bring costumes, hats, purses, and props and combine all your pieces into a giant dress up box. Let the kids mix and match and come up with their own crazy combinations.

The key is to not “mommy-fy” the play by trying to lead it yourself. Offer the children the objects to create with and then “mum’s da word!” Encourage the other moms not to interfere. Let the kids work out their own squabbles. And try to not to be a hover-mother. Don’t sit in a circle and stare at the kids while they play. No one enjoys being started at. Get into your own conversations and allow your children as much freedom as is safe.

Playing is one of (if not the best parts) of childhood. Do your best to stay out of your children’s way and let them enjoy themselves wholeheartedly.

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