Moravian Academy and the Middle School have officially started summer vacation. The summer, however, doesn’t mean that all learning needs to end. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Summer is a wonderful time for learning and the acquisition of new or further developed skills to occur in a non-traditional setting. The next few months are a terrific time for middlers to play outside, to hike in the woods, to ride a bike, to be curious, or to try something new. Time to play is essential and can help students return to school having developed life skills that also have strong benefits in the classroom.
An article originally published in The Atlantic in 2014 states, “unscheduled, unsupervised, playtime is one of the most valuable educational opportunities we give our children. It is fertile ground; the place where children strengthen social bonds, build emotional maturity, develop cognitive skills, and shore up their physical health.” The article goes on further to say, “children who engage in more free play have more highly developed self-directed executive function.” While this particular study was focused on younger aged children, it can be applied to middlers, too.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also advocated for children to spend more time in free play. The AAP says, “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” Some of the benefits of free play discussed by the AAP include:
- Opportunities to practice decision-making skills.
- Discovering their interests and passions.
- Assuming adult roles where they can control outcomes and overcome fears.
- Working with other children in groups.
- Negotiating, decision-making and creating rules for games with their peers.
- Promoting health through physical activity.
- Reducing stress.
- Learning the value of social bonds through interacting with other children.
- Building self-confidence since they are in charge.
- Learning self-direction (this may be the most valuable lesson children learn from free play).
As students begin some well-earned time away from campus, please encourage your son/daughter to go outside, to unplug, to explore, to play. In doing so, your child is learning or further developing significant life skills that can pay dividends both now and in the many years to come.