Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Kids need more free-time, less structure:

New study shows children who spend more time on unstructured activities are better able to meet their own goals
By Motherpedia
Date: June 21 2014
Tags: kids, activities,
Editor Rating:
kids-running_300

Limiting structured activities allows kids to establish interests and self-discipline, according to a new study at the University of Colorado, one of the first of its kind.

The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, says that kids who spend time reading, playing or exploring nature in the absence of predetermined structure are more proactive than those whose parents pack their schedules with lessons and study sessions.

They are also better able to meet their own goals than those who are carted from one pre-organised activity to another outside of school and homework, say researchers.

According to senior author Yuko Munakata, CU-Boulder psychology and neuroscience professor, over-structuring could interfere with the development of "self-directed executive function," a scientific term referring to independent, proactive thinking and decision-making.

"Executive function is extremely important for children," says Munakata.

"It helps them in all kinds of ways throughout their daily lives, from flexibly switching between different activities rather than getting stuck on one thing, to stopping themselves from yelling when angry, to delaying gratification."

The study delves into a heated controversy that erupted with the 2011 publication of an article by "Tiger Mother" Amy Chua in the Wall Street Journal entitled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," making the case for tightly structured parenting.

Despite ongoing controversy, scientific evidence in support of lax or rigid parenting styles can be lacking.

"These are societally important questions that come up quite often in social commentary and casual conversations among parents," Jane Barker, a CU-Boulder doctoral student working with Munakata and lead author of the study.

"So it's important to conduct research in this area, even if the questions are messy and not easy to investigate."

In the one-week study, researchers interviewed 70 parents of six-year-old children about their scheduled daily activities and classified them using science-oriented definitions of structured time, often referred to by economists.

Barker says the definitions were selected for use in the study because they were the most rigorous ones they could find.

Sleeping, eating, school and commutes were not taken into account.

Chores, lessons and religious activities are examples of activities that fell into the structured category, whereas social outings, play time, internet surfing and reading were classified as being unstructured.

Researchers then evaluated the children using an industry-standard verbal fluency test.

The end result indicates that self-directed executive function is more prevalent in children who spend more time in unstructured activities.

"Executive function during childhood also predicts important outcomes, like academic performance, health, wealth and criminality, years and even decades later," says Munakata.

Share This Tweet This Email To Friend
Recent Comments
0 Total Comments
Post a Comment
* your email address will not appear

Please enter the word you see in the image below:


Post a Comment
* your email address will not appear

Please enter the word you see in the image below:33343


Your Comment has been posted
Related Articles
boys-sport-football
Even for those kids who do play sport, it's not…
Read more
doctor-listening-to-girls-heart
The Government urges parents with 4-year-olds to have health checks…
Read more
bored-little-girl
You don't have to make sure your children are completely…
Read more
children_spelling
If spelling is not your child's favourite subject, something needs…
Read more
Shipping-containers-freight-wallpaper-preview

Latest Tech Used In Shipping Containers
Read how the shipping industry has revolutionised

Motherpedia cover-2

Win 1 set of a 4-book hardcover illustrated boxed set
Barbara Murray’s new 4-book Sound Stories is perfect for parents and educators and could assist with NAPLAN results

Motherpedia cover (4)

Where to celebrate Oktoberfest Australia
Get ready for this celebration!

Vtech giveaway motherpedia

Win 1 of 3 VTech Toys Pack Giveaway
Playtime is so much more with VTech

Motherpedia cover-4

A Fortnight of Foodie Experiences at East Village
A taste of East Village. What's in it for me?

Globber my too fix up cover

We Try: Globber My TOO Fix Up
A scooter that grows with your child

Throw a winning cricket pitch

3 Steps to a Winning Backyard Cricket Pitch
Ex-Adelaide Oval legend curator Les Burdett shares his tips for getting your backyard cricket pitch test match ready this summer

A bike that follows your kids life cycle - motherpedia - cover

A Bike That Follows Your Kids Life Cycle
Check out the Bunzi 2-in-1 gradual balance bike!

Moonlight lifestyle

Moonlight Cinema to bring…
Moonlight Cinema announces brand new Western Sydney venue

Screen shot 2019-11-26 at 8.29.12 am

Your Magical Christmas Wonderland…
Adventure park is about to light up the night sky with its "Christmas Festival of Lights"

Screen shot 2019-11-21 at 11.11.36 am

The Preston Market Gets…
It's time to feel pumped up for the holiday season!

Bruno-kelzer-zqzuigxcvrq-unsplash

Bunnings team members get…
Help raise funds by buying a snag or donating at your local store.