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We live in a society that pressures us to make every moment count, and, therefore, we feel the need to fill up all of our children’s time with structured (organized or “have-to”) activities. But unstructured time, or free play, allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination and dexterity as well as their physical, cognitive, and emotional strengths.

Directions: Examine your weekly schedule from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. How much of your day and your child’s day is spent in structured and in unstructured activities? Below, find two clocks divided into hourly slices.

Clock #1: Inside the slices, write the activities you and your child complete in 12 hours on a typical day, e.g., work, school, shopping, cooking, meals, bath time, and laundry.


Image of a Clock

Clock #2: With your child’s input, write down what your day would look like if you could design it anyway you wanted and still accomplish what you have to do. Don’t forget: While doing some of your structured activities (such as grocery shopping), the two of you can still take advantage of your time together and include some unstructured free play, such as word and number games.


Image of a Clock

Re-examine the clocks. Color-code the slices―one color for structured activities (such as a job, school, or daycare) and another color for unstructured activities (watching television or a video, riding a bike, working a puzzle, etc.). Where could you get more free playtime together? Plan to do at least one of those activities in the upcoming week.

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Updated on 5/9/2012