Study Reviews Importance of Child-Led Playtime

As Mind in the Making has documented, there are a series of “essential skills” that “are as important as IQ to children’s success now and in the future.”

There are myriad ways to help children develop these skills, which include Focus and Self Control; Perspective Taking; Communicating; Making Connections; Critical Thinking; and Taking on Challenges. And among the ways that children can learn is through play.

But a recent Gallup report – sponsored by Melissa & Doug – reviewed “parents’ perceptions of the role of play in their children’s lives.”

The study notes that “parents with young children seem aware that screen time needs to be limited, and they place a premium on outside play. However, the study also affirms that technology is a major part of many children’s lives and that screen time is crowding out indoor child-led play. While parents say their child should spend less time using devices and media and spend more time participating in child-led play, they don’t fully recognize the wide range of benefits that child-led play offers or the value of letting a child be bored now and then so they can learn to fill their own time. Therefore, many children may not be cultivating the skills crucial to development and ultimately fulfillment and success.”

Indeed, the report notes that while parents recognize that screen time requires careful monitoring – and while outdoor playtime is emphasized – the opportunities for children to benefit from other types of indoor playtime may be missed. This is especially significant as there are fewer barriers to indoor activity than outdoor.

  • Key findings include:
    Parents do not prioritize child-led, unstructured indoor play.
  • Parents downplay the benefits of unstructured, child-led play.
  • Many parents want even more outside play for their child but see barriers to getting it.
  • When children are indoors, screen-based play crowds out child-led play.
  • Parents feel compelled to fill their children’s free time.
  • Children are exhibiting signs and behaviors that could stem from a lack of child-led play.

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