Too Many Structured Activities May Hinder Children’s Executive Functioning
According to psychologists at the University of Colorado and the University of Denver who conducted a study with 70 six-year old kids, they found a correlation that children with better executive functioning are those who spent more time in less- structured activities.
The study explains that “self-directed executive function develops mostly during childhood and it includes any mental processes that help us work toward achieving goals—like planning, decision making, manipulating information, switching between tasks, and inhibiting unwanted thoughts and feelings”. A child with a high executive function leads to good performance in school and success in their adult life.
Researchers define structured activities as anything that are organized and supervised by adults i.e. music lessons, ballet classes etc. Any form of free play where a child is left to decide what to do and how to do it is considered less- structured. For example, a child who is given free afternoon time may decide to watch TV, then decide to draw the characters from the TV show and perhaps
present the drawing to his/her family. This child learns and develops more compared to another child who does the same activities but is given instructions every step of
The study shows the need to give children more responsibility to make their own decisions on what to do with their time. Children should be allowed to practice working towards their own goals for them to be independent and not always seek cues and reminders from adults. Having too many structured time could slow their development and highlights the importance of free play.
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