When it comes to children's overall development, leisure time activities are just as important as traditional education. Children learn through play, especially when they are very young, and are still developing crucial cognitive and motor skills, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Whether an activity is a structured activity like team sports or whether it is unstructured free play in the backyard, make sure your child has plenty of opportunities to engage in leisure activities on a regular basis.
Sports activities are usually a large part of leisure time for children. Typically, children join a youth sports team that interests them, like soccer, baseball, softball, basketball, flag football, or gymnastics. These sports activities not only teach kids a skill, they also teach kids how to work as a team toward a common goal. Your child does not have to join a sports team to become active in sports, because many recreational centers have spontaneous games that people play just for fun. You can also organize a group of your child's friends for backyard sports activities like kickball and T-ball.
Arts and Crafts
Arts and crafts are a favorite go-to leisure activity to keep young children busy indoors, especially on a rainy day. Many parents help their children work on a specific art project, or they give art materials to their children, and let the kids get as creative as they wish. According to early childhood expert Robert Schirrmacher, Ph.D. in an article titled, ''Child-Centered Art vs. Teacher-Directed Projects,'' the best approach is to guide children toward a specific direction, but let them decide what do to do within those parameters. For example, you can give your child a theme, like Thanksgiving, and allow your child to create any type of artwork or craft related to the holiday. For the artistically inclined child, you can take her to a local kid’s art class at places like a pottery store, or to art classes that a recreation department or community center offers.
Dance and Music
When a child is inclined toward the performing arts, her parents will usually enroll her in a dance class, such as ballet, tap, jazz or hip-hop, or for music lessons for the clarinet, violin or piano. A child who starts a dance or music class an early age and excels at it may wish to continue, as she gets older. She might join a competitive dance team or the school band. However, you should not invest in an expensive instrument or in an expensive dance class, if you are not certain of your child’s interest. Observe how your child reacts when she plays with toy instruments and listens to kiddie music to gauge how she might do with lessons.
Unstructured playtime is essential for a child’s development, and contributes to his cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being, according to American Academy of Pediatrics. Make sure that your child's leisure time does not consist entirely of structured activities. Send him to the backyard for a couple of hours with a sibling or with friends -- and nothing else. You will be surprised at the imaginative games kids come up with on their own. Even when kids are stuck indoors, they will find plenty of opportunities for unstructured play, in which the kids have to come up with their own fun. Initiate a few ideas if your kids claim they are bored. A few dining chairs and an old sheet can become a secret fort. The couch cushions can be islands that protect them from hot lava on the floor.
- Healthy Children: Caution! Children at Play
- American Occupational Therapy Association : Building Play Skills For Healthy Children & Families
- Community Playthings: Child-Centered Art vs. Teacher-Directed Pro
- Parent Map: Drama, Music, Dance: It's Good for the Young Brain
- American Academy of Pediatrics Publication: The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images