I was going through the Bloomberg report today and I notice this headline. ” Harvard University only accepts 5.2% of the applicants into its undergraduate program*” This is a jaw dropping number- because it costs money to apply to go to Harvard. Only students who feel they have a real chance get to get in apply. So I got curious and I did some research back home. The numbers are even more scary. IIT accepts only 2% of the JEE applicants, IIM’s less than 1%, and the Civil services accept between 1-3% (only 0.025% get into the IAS).* This does not stop at the post-graduation level either. There is competition to get into the best undergraduate, public, and even primary schools. This extremely competitive environment leads to pressures on students and parents. Parents start working on their children’s resume when they are really young!!! Now a days most parents feel pressured to enroll their children in several classes to keep up with the current wave of competitive learning. As a teacherI have mixed feelings upon this. I totally understand and appreciate a parents empathy and drive to push for what is best for their children. However, the educationist in me craves for a balance. A balance that will let our students learn and develop skills that will be valuable to them in their career as they grow up while enjoying their childhood. I wanted to share an element of learning style that I feel provides this equilibrium. This learning style is called “FreePlay.”
The overriding premise of this learning style is that “play (or some available free time in the case of older children and adolescents) is essential to the cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth.
Why is free, unstructured play so important? There are lots of reasons, says the American Association of Pediatrics:
- Play is important for a healthy development of the brain;
- Undirected play helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills;
- When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue;
- When play is controlled by adults – such as in organized sports – children have to follow to adult rules and concerns (like winning) and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills.
- Play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children;
- Play and unscheduled time that allows for peer interactions is an important component of social-emotional learning; and
- Free, child-driven, creative play protects against the effects of pressure and stress.
I can assure you that if we continue to encourage our children to play independently- they will start thinking independently. Independent thinking is an advantage in any career that the children will pursue as adults. So in this one instance it is important to understand that sometimes the Best thing a parent can do for a child is nothing.
Lets encourage Free Unstructured play activities**
Creative Skills and Learning
** please understand that safety is important. Parents should always monitor play for safety, however a large proportion of play should be child-driven rather than adult-directed.