Free Playtime for Children

Let their spirit be free!

Free play time for children
Let their spirit be free!

We have all been there! That wait for the school bell to indicate the start of the games’ hour, completing the homework quickly so that we could rush out to play with friends in the evening, and asking our parents for ‘5 more minutes’ and that would never be it! But wasn’t it all so worth it?

Playtime is more than just games, it’s an experience. But are we as parents and caregivers letting our children enjoy this experience the same way?

With value being placed on test scores and not personal development, demand for academic readiness and success is taking away the joy of ‘free play’. We are letting ourselves continuously direct our children’s activities because we find that optimal, but what about the precious years of development we might be going negligent about, that are in reality critical?

Free playtime is strongly associated with- creative problem solving, deeper and stronger social skills, and enhanced cooperation and logical thinking

A variety of studies conducted using various different methodologies come to the same bold conclusion of a strong connection between play and creative problem solving, deeper and stronger social skills, and enhanced cooperation and logical thinking. Not only this, healthy playtime helps our little ones discover a sense of self and a feeling of control over little things that matter to them. Numerous health benefits are not unknown.

Studies support that preschoolers’ and schoolers’ screen-time with smart devices has increased tremendously over the years. Do we need more reason for increased cases of anxiety and depression, both reported and (more than often) unreported, among young adults?

Having said that, we want to address the fact that screen-time would be a new normal for various online learning activities as a by-product of developments going forth because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will get accustomed to the shift in the mindset and the ease of learning changes by the time a strong medical armor is in place, which would be by the year 2021 or beyond.

We request you to not confuse playtime with guided play with coaches or that under your watch. We are concerned about free play!

Our congested urban cityscape has indeed taken away from the freedom of playing around. With the decline of open natural spaces like parks, we see a simultaneous rise in children’s amusement centers. Developments and transitions like these are beyond our control on an individual level. But there are somethings we need to acknowledge and keep the advantages of free play for our little ones intact!

PLAY: Playtime needs to be free, as free as it can be...

Playtime needs to be free: Let your children choose their play activities on their own. This not only makes them feel that they can take control but also helps them (and also gives you the opportunity) to learn about their interests.

PLAY: Let them be challenged and challenge themselves!

Let them be challenged and challenge themselves: Playtime can sometimes turn out to be challenging, physically due to frightening swings or at times minor injuries and socially due to a conflict with friends or finding it difficult to adjust. Your protective instincts as parents are justified, but it’s okay. Give them some time to learn to cope up with these emotions of fright, cooperation, and more. Encourage them to adjust and adapt. Allow them to self-soothe. They are learning!

PLAY: It is all about happiness after all. They are learning on their own.

All about happiness: Our children’s well-being and happiness, isn’t that what we are rooting for?
Let them be happy at this moment, let them find what makes them happy. Don’t let academics turn into a sphere related to pressure, there’s already a lot waiting for them! Yes, indeed, academics take a space on one’s resume at certain academic levels/academic transitional levels, but you know what takes more space and value? Skills, inter-personal skills! And if we let them play outdoors or simply play freely for an hour or two a day, we won’t have to ‘teach’ them these skills, they will ‘learn on their own’!

PLAY: Let them dive in joyously!

You know it!: Being a parent you know what’s best for your child and comparing to your childhood playtime and way, you will know if there’s something your child is missing on. Your protective instincts and concerns are valid with predators and bullies around and the academic notions in play. But you know it’s not helpful to let these take away from a child’s freedom. Let them dive in. If they fall, you will be right there, but let them stand up again on their own. They’ll be just fine!

If they have a fight, allow them to express the whole incident and resolve it on their own. Many times when they are narrating their entire experience, we may feel the urge to explain them or stop them but let them share all, how they are feeling, name their emotions… just listen patiently. We as parents feel hurt too when our children feel bad, and I have been there, but we got to keep up with our positive sport and remind ourselves of the quote from Abraham-Hicks teachings*. It takes time initially as they’ve had always been under our care most of the time in their beginning years, after birth. But as they grow up their access to the wider world would grow too. So, let’s start early with their free playtime and help them thoughtfully navigate the wider world.

I am closing this blog with a gentle reminder!

Free playtime is not an optional extra, it’s essential, and you know it! So we got to strike a balance between the screen-time, guided playtime and free playtime.

Don’t we at our current stage of life wish for something we could do for the sheer joy of it and not have something at stake and the fear to lose?

When our children play, it is not centered on winning a prize or any other aim, they play simply for the happiness they feel within! Can we ask for more?

*I leave you with the quote from Abraham-Hicks teachings:

‘Your child is naturally joyful. Your child is naturally tuned in to the Source Energy. And as he is diving through and digging through contrast, it is natural that there would be somethings that might disconnect him. Just don’t let his disconnection then inflame your disconnection.
Many parents have discovered that their children, for most part, feel good when they do – and the ornerier you are, usually the ornerier your children are.
They are a strong reflection of the way you are feeling much of the time.’

Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.


Happy, free and conscious parenting!

‘Basics of Fine Motor Skills’ by Heather Greutman

Parenting Reads!

Book Review Basics of Fine Motor Skills by Heather Greutman, a parenting good read book

“Research suggests that fine motor skills are so important that they are connected to how a child learns to read, complete math problems, and other higher-level cognitive thinking”, an excerpt from the book ‘Basics of Fine Motor Skills’ by Occupational Therapist (OT) Heather Greutman is a self-help resource (in Education & Teaching category) for parents, teachers & therapists. It is a thin book with small chapters, and it has only 90 pages, but this book gives a plethora of information on the subject- fine motor skills.

It is a go-to resource for understanding fine motor skills in-depth, to keep up with the developmental milestones on fine motor skills, for ideas on creative games, tools and fun activities. As a parent, we literally run out of ideas or resources, because parenting journey can be overwhelming at times. As mentioned above, it has easy to read small chapters but has quite a few technical jargons in the chapters. So, read mindfully at one go (if possible) and keep a tab on the jargons, because some of the terms (like proprioception, in-hand manipulation etc.) have been mentioned before but explained in the later chapters. Also, a few chapters from this book, you’d want to refer time and again for your little ones (ages: new-born through 6+).

A little insight on a few chapters goes like this…

Chapter-6 ‘Fine Motor Development Red Flags’ was overly technical for me. Though I enjoy reading technical stuff more, but I was only gliding through this chapter. Chapter-8 mentions a list of things/tools/items to keep handy or arrange beforehand to carry out the fine motor skills activities at home. So to say, one-time preparation for the rest of the fine motor development journey with your little learner. This 2-page chapter also suggests game ideas. Chapter-9 outlines list of activities by skills such as gross motor skills, visual motor skills, handwriting and pre-writing skills. It begins with warm up activities for shoulders and fingers to prepare a child for fine motor activities and handwriting skills which is interesting, alike the warm-up exercises we grown-ups follow to flex or prep up our body before the main exercise regime.  Since I have the eBook version of this book so, chapters 8 & 9, I have taken the print outs to refer regularly. ‘Activities Ideas by Age’ chapter-10 & ‘Developmental Milestones’ chapter-5, I revisit on a timely manner for age group activities and milestones’ references, respectively. So, this time around to write my reviews of this book, I have checked/unchecked a few fine motor activity ideas listed under Ages 3-6 years for my son, Pratham.

The interesting part of this book was learning about three more senses, beyond the typical 5 senses we all know. Discovering all the 8 sensory systems was certainly helpful and exciting in the chapter-4- Sensory Processing and Fine Motor Skills.

Chapter-7 discusses the difference between handwriting skills and fine motor skills. Heather Greutman mentions that Handwriting skills is a complex language expression skill which requires the overall integration of all skills such as gross motor skills, fine motor skills, visual motor skills and sensory processing skills, to have a mastery in handwriting. Handwriting difficulty in a child does not always stem from fine motor skills difficulties alone. So, she suggests it is highly recommended to get a child assessed by a professional (like Occupational Therapists, OT), if a child is really struggling with a skill or two.

For those who like reading books cover-to-cover (as I do), I would like to say this book can turn out to be technical. So, read the book for your knowledge base on fine motor skills and to be able to understand your young one’s development better and also to reap the benefits of a structured list of activities, games and milestones crucial for the young one’s development.

So, I’d like to close this book review with a poem by me, and here it goes…

Raising a child is simple enough you may say
A glide through a joy ride, hurray!
Trust me, my friend an unpleasant game it is sometimes.
Study, unlearn, learn
Still falling short on ideas & thoughts you feel…
Parenting is a conscious and instinctive indulgence.
You may or may not enjoy it sometimes,
But then learning such skills, it needs.
Ask me I have tried it.

Read.Raise.Rise. Happy Parenting!
#readraiserise

Fine Motor Skills Development

The creation of a child from a single cell is magical, and so is the development of the complex human brain. But what aids the development of the human brain is rather a series of simple activities. 

The brain controls and facilitates the functioning of the entire body stimuli. So the development of our brain can be seen as a coding process whereby our brain learns various skills over time. One set of such skills is termed as ‘Fine Motor Skills’. Fine motor skills involve fine coordination between small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet, and toes to act in accordance with what we see. ‘Hand-eye coordination’ is a type of fine motor skills.  

Following are the six integral aspects of Fine Motor Skills:

● Agility
● Balance
● Coordination
● Power
● Reaction Time 
● Speed 

As we have highlighted above, the development of children’s fine motor skills can be boosted by some simple activities which are all about a fun learning experience. So the next time your child is tempted towards screen-time, try involving them in some of these fun activities instead!

Activity 1 – The Pulse Puzzle

The activity might sound like a tongue-twister, but it can be a great pastime activity, that involves absolutely no cost. Pick two distinct coloured pulses, say, the split Bengal gram and green gram, and add in beans like red kidney beans or the white-eyed peas. Mix them together in a bowl and your activity is ready. Now encourage your child to segregate them and put them into different bowls. The activity not only involves the act of picking and holding but also improves the child’s recognition skills with respect to colours and textures, and might even encourage them to eat pulses. Start with two pulses and then you can make your way up from there. 

Activity 2 – Lego

Lego building blocks are children’s absolute favourite (and adults’ too, honestly!). Turning, placing, and flipping the pieces support the development of fine-motor skills. And they also promote creativity and imagination as every Lego play hour is an opportunity to build and talk about something new altogether!

Activity 3 – Craft Fun

Often parents fear giving scissors to their children concerning over the sharp-edges. But now there are a variety of child-safe scissors (safety scissors) available in the market that are kid-friendly. Cutting and pasting activities are a perfect setup to build hand-eye coordination and boost to creativity is a bonus! Also, colouring and painting are great activities too. 

Activity 4 – Threading Beads

Threading beads can be a great activity to promote visual motor-skills. And you can always play around colours and types of beads that encourage children to come up with newer patterns. Also, it enhances children’s detail to attention. You can step-up the activity and play with variations. One such variation can be showing a pattern of threaded beads of different colours and asking your child to replicate the same. Playing around such variations can keep the freshness of the activity intact and boost your child’s retention. 

Little activities like these go a long way and strengthen the foundation of our children’s development. Also, it is important to incorporate these activities as a fun learning experience and not like a to-do-list activity. Our children learn everything at their pace. The ‘right-age’ or the ‘right-pace’ is a myth. Don’t let any of these viral ideas ruin your experience of parenting. 

To read about my parenting experience with my child on his fine motor skills and when it consciously started, go to the link here.

I prefer encouraging what my child is genuinely interested in (mainly Lego brick building) along with free-printable activities I receive from ‘Growing Hands-On Kids’ website by Heather Greutman. 

Happy Parenting!