Educate and Learn Through Free Time
Turning Free Time into a Chance to Learn
I still remember that day before Christmas, when I was a little girl, sitting down and writing my christmas letter, in which all I wished for was the largest lunchbox that Santa could find, filled with little plastic animals, specifically farm animals… horses, cows, pigs, sheep, anything except chickens (I’ve never liked feathered animals). Of course, I didn’t hesitate to sign my letter affirming that I behaved perfectly well during the year, that I didn’t argued that much with my brothers and sister, and that I obeyed and helped my parents almost all the time.
Every afternoon I couldn’t wait to arrive home after school and start building little fences with all kind of sticks that I could find around, place the only 3 plastic animals I had the chance to borrow from my brothers, and transform our little front yard in the most beautiful barnyard, imagining that someday, I would own great extensions of land, where I would be able to admire and take care of all my real life animals and ride my favourite horse all night until dawn. That was the main reason I desperately needed that lunchbox filled with little plastic animals to call my own.
My parents, without specific action plans or educational theories, without leaving their responsibilities and jobs apart, with the only intention and sole purpose of allowing me to be myself through playtime, but more importantly without even imagining it, they projected that so long wished place, a beautiful place where today, I can do all the activities that as a grown up woman I enjoy the most.
Without all the animals, or the great extensions of land, nor a favourite horse to ride, I found in that place situated between beautiful mountains, a special place away from home where I can now share great memories, but most of all share with my husband, family and friends the so much needed social work for the surrounding communities.
The free time, the playtime, the recreational time, should help to create opportunities to learn, to share experiences, to exercise social abilities, to propitiate communication and personal development through interpersonal relationships. It is a great opportunity to develop creativity and the capacity to be amazed, capacity that nowadays it’s almost or already lost in children and young people.
Most of all, free time should be an opportunity to help others, because in that way we can develop virtues and values, potentate all the abilities that life has already given us, and find the authentic and so much pursued human happiness.
Today’s family lifestyle has changed the way we use free time. Technology and the time spent in front of any kind of screen has turned into the lead activity of children, teenagers and adults. It’s the most common way to entertain at home.
This situation has brought up very serious problems like the lack of communication, the enormous peak in worldwide statistics about children obesity due to passivity, sexual education through false or misinterpreted information where it’s based on violence or lack of compromise, the immunity to violence where it’s used as a solution to everyday problems, but most of all the lack of intellectual development that should lead to proper thinking.
In an other side, there is a trend and concern between parents to keep their children in multiple extracurricular activities, situation that has brought as a consequence, children with anxiety issues, and health problems like gastritis and stomach ulcers, issues that were suffered exclusively by adults in the past.
Children need peaceful moments at home, they need to spend time with their siblings, where they can altogether learn to socialize through their relationship, learn to share, to resolve differences between them, and to respect the stablished limits. It’s between siblings where children learn to develop their sense of humor, where they learn to make their family life a place where they want to be, even though sometimes they fight, or find difficulties between older and younger siblings. This will help them search and build successful relationships and prepare themselves for life outside their home.
Here I enlist some good actions that will help you influence in your children’s free time:
1. Encourage lecture. You will have to be an example, so keep up with the reading.
2. Practice physical activities, play sports, exercise together. Specially outdoors.
3. Grow their interest in board games.
4. Interest them in listening music and arts by attending to concerts and museums.
5. When hosting parties, make them part of it. Ask for their help before and after the event.
6. Encourage critical thinking. Critical thinking develops better in stimulating ambiences where children can process and apply information that they are receiving in order to be able to choose between what goes against their values and ideals.
7. Encourage helpfulness by planning activities where children can help others.
When we start giving proper importance to our family relationships, we will understand the pleasure of the simple and beautiful things in the world. We will truly live the same sense of appreciation of those who know how to benefit from free time.
About Tere Valdés de Durán
– Degree in communications sciences, Master’s degree in educational counseling family, Married since 1980. Mother of 6 (Youngest -18). Social work of human development in rural communities in Sierra de Santiago, México.
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