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Free Play or Soccer Practice?

| Admin

The Apple Tree Learning CentersThere has been plenty of hand-wringing in recent years about the “overscheduled child.” With after-school hours increasingly dominated by piano lessons, soccer practice, and countless other planned activities, many of us have a nagging sense that kids are missing out on something important if they have no time for unstructured play.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers found new research from Germany that suggests these fears are justified. It finds people who recall having plenty of free time during childhood enjoy high levels of social success as adults.

A team of three psychologists from the University of Hildesheim, led by Werner Greve, conducted a survey of 134 people. Participants were presented with a list of seven statements and reported the degree to which they conformed with their own childhood experiences (that is, ages 3 to 10).

Our teachers are aware that free play allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.
The statements included, “Looking back, I tried many things and experimented a lot by myself”; “From time to time, I set out on my own or with friends to discover the neighborhood”; and “My parents always were in fear that something could happen to me, so they did not let me do many things by myself.”

They also expressed their level of agreement or disagreement with 10 statements designed to measure “social success.” These included “Friends come to me for advice”; and “If something goes wrong, I have friends by my side that support me.”

Additional tests measured their ability to be flexible in light of life’s setbacks, and their overall level of self-esteem. The researchers found a significant positive correlation between ample time for free play during childhood and adult social success. Free time as kids was also linked with high self-esteem and the flexibility to adjust one’s goals. Free play, they argue, allows children to develop the flexibility needed to adapt to changing circumstances and environments—an ability that comes in very handy when life becomes unpredictable as an adult.

The Apple Tree Learning Centers works with their High Reach Curriculum. The curriculum allows teachers to have a structured and step-by step lesson plan, but the free time is a daily activity that never has a set schedule, and the children love it!