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My six year old daughter said,"Mumma I want to learn swimming". I was very happy to hear this because as a child, I had been scared to learn swimming and had always made excuses for not attending classes. My parents didn't push me against my wishes. But as I grew up I regretted that I couldn't learn and I couldn't overcome my fears. So my daughter now goes for swimming classes on weekdays and coaches for two hours. She has thus no time for free play. This makes me think, 'Is she losing out on free play'.? But then she enjoys swimming. She's the happiest when in the pool. She is thrilled when the coach praises her. She comes to me jumping with joy if she wins a race with fellow swimmers during coaching.
But I worry as these are her initial days in coaching. Right now it's more play. But as some years will pass rigorous training that the sport demands will take over the play quotient.
Will that training and force make her lose interest? But training is essential to develop them into athletes.
Also due to lack of open spaces and our overcrowded city has made children glued to gadgets and physical activity has taken a backseat. Thus taking up a sport becomes essential.
Free play also promotes all round development of a child or budding athletes. Often binding a child to a single activity or sport could trigger a decline in skills such as agility, balance and coordination. Most importantly, free play stimulates brain development. It increases attention, concentration, promotes creative problem solving skills and also develops cognitive skills. A child also learns to make rules and follow them.
Thus striking the right balance is required. A child should take up a sport to play it. But when performance comes into play, so does deliberate practice and the pressure of performance follows.
Thus , it is important to instill love for the sport. That makes the sport fun and when the child develops love for the sport, the rigorous training and long practice sessions will become fun too.
Here the role of the parent is very decisive. Parents need to refrain and restrain themselves from imposing the goals of the sport on the child. The biggest difference between a child and an adult is that adults look a lot into the future whereas kids are only focused on immediate pleasure. Let the child enjoy the pleasures of the sport as free play. Let it not be time specific.
Parents want the best for their children. So we don't want our kids to make mistakes therefore we push them.
But in the process we tend to forget , the lessons we learnt from those mistakes. Why should we adults deprive the child the experiences they gathers by making those mistakes. It will only help them in practicing the sport in future.
Let children be free to practice the sport.
Let them play!