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Unregulated Play in Kids


Children develop at different rates and with unique levels of awareness. A child who is 3 may be aware of dangers that a 6-year-old has not experienced. The first factor a parent should consider is how aware his child is of his feelings, the intentions of others, and potential dangers. If a child is still gaining awareness in these areas, the parent should take some time to observe the child in play before letting her play without supervision.


Each situation a child enters will have a safety factor. If there is any question that a child is in a safe environment for play, supervision is warranted. A technique of teaching safety is shifting fear to awareness in the child and parent. Instead of keeping the child completely away from scary situations, the parent can make the child aware of danger so she can learn how to keep herself safe in the absence of supervision.


One way to determine whether unregulated play in kids will be harmful or beneficial is to watch the child from a distance. Stand out of view at a playground or a friend’s house and see what your child does. If a child can communicate clearly, steer clear of danger, ask for help when needed and work out problems with peers, then he is likely to be safe playing without supervision for short periods of time.


Play is a kid’s natural language. As children get older, they want to play with friends, and parents are not always available to supervise every moment. Cultivating trust and responsibility between parent and child can allow unregulated play to take place when the child is ready with few problems. Children able to make choices and are trusted to take care of themselves develop the ability to communicate their needs when necessary and have fun playing in the meantime.


While it's necessary to allow children to play on their own at some time, you will need to talk with them about what they do and where. Stepping too far away from parental responsibilities can lead to neglect, which can lead to dangerous problems for both of you.

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