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Expert says unstructured play essential to children's growth, well-being


February 23, 2007

With pressure for children to excel in school and on the playing fields, their days can be crammed with academic schedules, music lessons, sports and homework. Experts say that over-scheduling kids is becoming more and more common today. With such a non-stop lifestyle, how can parents find a happy and healthy balance for their kids?

Arizona State University early childhood expert Sascha Mitchell-Kay will show parents how to find that happy, healthy balance while still providing children with an enriching environment.

On Wednesday, March 21, ASU’s Lifelong Learning presents “Children, throw away your day planners: The case against over-scheduling your child.” Mitchell-Kay will lead the discussion, addressing short- and long-term consequences of scheduling too many structured activities for children. The program begins at 12 p.m., in the Raven Golf Club conference room. The fee is $5 per person.

“Parents worry about kids’ boredom, so they schedule their lives to keep them busy,” said Mitchell-Kay, assistant professor of Early Childhood and Elementary Education at ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “Despite parents’ good intentions to create a perfect life for their children, maintaining a rigorous schedule of music lessons and soccer practice is neither healthy nor realistic.”

Finding time for unstructured play may not be easy, but Mitchell-Kay will discuss the benefits of giving children a break from organized activities and electronic baby-sitters. She will also explore healthy ways to rebalance family life while still providing children with an enriching environment.

“Giving children regular opportunities for unscheduled imaginative play is excellent preparation for academic and social success. Through unstructured play, children socialize, create, and make and break rules. They learn how to handle their mistakes and to persist through challenges,” said Mitchell-Kay.

ASU’s Lifelong Learning program creates learning connections between residents and ASU faculty, and residents of all ages are invited to participate in a variety of leraning formats. “Children, Throw away your day planners” is the second of a three part ASU’s Lifelong Learning Child Development Brown Bag Series in Verrado. The final series, “How Childcare and/or preschool affects child development, will be presented at 12 p.m., Wednesday, April 11, in Verrado’s Raven Golf Club conference room.