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Do You Let Your Kids Engage In Free Play? Here Are Some Ideas

free play kidsFree play.

The sort of thing where you just kick the kids out the door and tell them to not come back until the street lights come on.

Not a playdate. Not an organized activity. Not a trip to the park with some of your Mommy friends.  Free play is something your kids have to invent, discover, and create.

Our generation, the helicopter parents, are hell-bent on uber-scheduling our children’s lives to prevent boredom, insure a well-rounded sphere of influence, and make sure they stay ahead of their peers.

Even at school, where recess was the bastion of free play some are squeezing in extra math, science, and music classes.

But boredom can be a good thing. With all our good intentions, we’re creating a generation of kids who will rely on someone else to entertain them. Left to their own devices, what will they come up with?

“When kids are allowed free time to play, they learn how to work in groups, negotiate, share, self-advocate, and make decisions,” says Kenneth Ginsburg, author of the new book Building Resilience in Children and Teens.

“Play is exactly about learning to control your environment, to figure things out,” he continues. “Play is integral to being able to build resilience.”

Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose created something called Playing Out in their Bristol neighborhood as a chance for kids to experience the same running around they did growing up. They started with brief afternoon road closures to give kids a safe place to just get after it. [watch the video here]

Mike Lanza wrote the book on getting kids outside. Playborhood gives game ideas and tips for parents in turning their community into a safe and encouraging place for kids to play.

I know it’s counter-intuitive to suggest some things kids can do for “free play”, but if your coddled kids need a nudge, give them these suggestions via GeekDad, kick them out the door, and tell them not to come back until dinner’s ready.

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  • Superhero Games 1 of 10
    Superhero Games
    I asked my son what he plays at recess and he screamed "Superhero games!" I asked him what those are and he said "Sonic / Power Rangers," or "Sonic / Transformers." Just basically some of the crew are 'good guys', some are 'bad guys' and they play act running around like we used to with 'cops and robbers' or 'cowboys and indians.'
    Image via Buzz Bishop
  • Soccer Baseball 2 of 10
    Soccer Baseball
    My brother and sister and I used to play all sorts of games with just the three of us, a ball, and a baseball diamond. One fielder, one batter, one pitcher, and a lot of "ghost runners" on the bases.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • 2-on-1 Football 3 of 10
    2-on-1 Football
    Again, me, my sister and brother would play 2-on-1 football. My sister would switch teams. My brother or I would be quarterback, the other would be defence, and my sister the wide receiver as we used our block as a football field.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Riding Bikes 4 of 10
    Riding Bikes
    If you live on a cul de sac, or near a field. Just let them loose. We've even played this winter as my son recreates "Ice Road Truckers" with a game called "Ice Road Biking."
    Image via Buzz Bishop
  • Red Light, Green Light 5 of 10
    Red Light, Green Light
    One person is "It" at the end of a field. They yell "Green Light!" and everyone races towards it. When they yell "Red Light!", everyone must stop. It turns around, and if they catch anyone moving, they're out. All the players try to get to the finish without getting caught.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Tag 6 of 10
    Tag
    I run, you try to catch me - if you can.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Shadow Tag 7 of 10
    Shadow Tag
    Instead of tagging a body, you run across a person's shadow. This version is always up to debate and will help kids in their negotiation skills and honesty. Or, ask the NFL if you can borrow their instant replay officials to adjudicate disputes.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Freeze Tag 8 of 10
    Freeze Tag
    When you get tagged, you're frozen. You can't move until one of the other players come and save you by unfreezing you with a tag. Very tough for 'It' to manage once they have a collection of frozen players around the field. Especially fun in winter :)
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Red Rover 9 of 10
    Red Rover
    Especially good if you've got a large group. Divide into teams, hold hands, and face each other. The teams take turn calling out, "Red Rover, Red Rover, We call [insert name] come over!" Kid runs and tries to break the hands of the other team. If they do, they pull someone over, if they don't they stay on the new team.
    Image via iStockPhoto
  • Hide and Seek 10 of 10
    Hide and Seek
    This challenges the best helicoptering parent. For a kid to play hide and seek they have to truly be out of your view.
    Image via iStockPhoto

Image via Playing Out

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