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Children with backpacks going to school.

Unstructured After School Activities for Kids

You may have heard about kids “growing up too fast” these days, and how children “aren’t allowed to be children” anymore, and if you take a moment to think about it, these statements are largely true. The evolution of the average lifestyle has had a dramatic effect on our kids’ afterschool activities, making them busier than ever.

Surf excel’s Kids Today project, which spoke with and filmed the lives of children all over the world, has found that more than ever kids are bucking down to learn rather than play – as this video from the Surf excel Kids Today project shows:

Modern life is busy, even for our children. With government initiatives popping up all around the world that place great importance on academic learning, we’re starting to see the introduction of more structured play and structured activities. Even when it comes to things to do after school, reading, writing, jigsaws and tech toys are slowly but surely starting to overtake free, uninhibited play.

Why is Unstructured Play so Important?

It is vital that we find after school activities for kids that bring back the nature of play. Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination, which is essential for healthy development, for maintaining strong family bonds, and for learning.

Structured play, where there is a very definite outcome that children are encouraged to reach, promotes the notion that kids should always be aiming towards the destination, ignoring the journey. In truth, the journey – the way in which you achieve your goals and the lessons you learn along the road – is the most important aspect of living a happy life.

kids walking side by side

Image by Natesh Ramasamy

After School Activities for Children

If you’re looking for things to do after school that can really help your kids’ development without neglecting the important principles of freedom and fun, here are some great ideas to get you started:

  • Nature Exploration

When the weather is nice, take your kids to the local park after school, and simply let them run around, exploring the different trees, plants, flowers, and wildlife. Research by the University of Pennsylvania in the US claims that unstructured nature activities improve “cognitive, behavioural, and even physical functioning”. By gaining first-hand experience of the world at their own pace, kids can learn much more about local nature than they could from a textbook.

  • Role Play Toys

With many of us leading busy lifestyles, it’s very tempting to purchase tech toys for our kids. Mini computers, which give children specific tasks to complete, are popular ways to keep kids occupied. This places unnecessary importance on the notion of goals. For younger kids, try introducing toys that encourage role play.

Not only does it allow your little one to unleash their imagination, the creative thinking involved in role play can help them in their real lives, allowing them to test-drive scenarios and social situations. Offer your child some building blocks, a doll, or even a pan from your kitchen with some uncooked noodles, and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they will come up with a story!

  • Painting

Drawing and painting are, perhaps, two of the most open-ended after school activities for children. Forget using paper with templates on; just offer a blank page and see what your children can produce. They’re probably more creative than you think! If you’re worried about stains, you can even make your own paint using cornflour, water, and food colouring – it washes out easily.

Unstructured play is becoming a hot topic at the moment, as more and more parents strive to offer a wider range of open-ended activities that encourage development. So what after school activities have you tried so far? Share your ideas below!