Free Play and Confidence

// from iOS (5)_0.jpg
// from iOS (1) copy_0.jpg
// from iOS (3)_2.jpg
// from iOS (4)_0.jpg
// from iOS (7)_0.jpg
// from iOS copy_1.jpg
It’s a myth that just because I am “made to learn something” that will make me more confident. Unless I have the freedom to explore, to think, to express, to make decisions, to make mistakes, it’s unlikely that I will build confidence.
Three problems with many structured classes are that invariably there are expectations (of performance), there are comparisons (between children and to a benchmark) and there is right and wrong. Each one of these is definitely non-conducive to building confidence.
This mis-approach stems possibly from a combination of unawareness, lack of time, and some sense of self-inadequacy (which parents often try and fulfill through their children). Result – more children are attending structured classes at much lesser age then you can imagine.
Free play, in contrast, is amazingly effective in building confidence:
1. Free Play focuses on thinking, structured learning focuses on knowledge. Allow your child to build his own experiments, do his own cause-effect analysis, and develop his own mental models.
2. Since free play does not have any expectations, it is stress-free. A whole lot of us actually lose confidence under the pressure of performance is there. See if you can start the children off without an expression of expectation.
3. Free Play is internally motivated compared to structured learning which is typically driven externally. Since children have unlimited internal resources, active inside-out play is very empowering. Ensure that with free social play, your child also gets free self-play. Both have specific benefits.
4. Free play develops decision making while in structured play most decisions are either pre-made (that’s the structure part) or the teacher makes (that’s the teaching part). Since decision making is so vital in developing confidence, allow as much of child making decisions in your playtime with the child.
5. In free play, there is no right or wrong. This to me is the biggest reason why I propagate free play as an integral part of confidence development. Simply put, will you thrive in an environment where your mistakes are constantly highlighted? In spite of this realization, most adults, when with children, are constantly correcting them – especially in a class, where the adult has an additional responsibility of making the child ‘learn’. See if you can leave your judgment at home when you go out to play with your child.