Somewhere along the way, I remember learning that unstructured, imaginative free play is vital to helping kids develop the kinds of skills that make for a more successful, happy child. And that too many structured activities interfere with the development of these skills. Impulse control being one.
Another thing I have noticed: kids don't seem to get together on their own and play pick-up games much anymore. If there isn't an adult blowing a whistle, telling them when and how to play, they aren't playing, apparently. I've come to believe that the overreliance on kid activities governed by adults leads to kids who can't seem to break out of their shell and play on their own. Kids playing by themselves helps develop leadership and conflict resolution skills, for example. It isn't just organized sports, by the way. Its "mommy and me" music, swimming, gym class... the list goes on.
This week there has been a series on National Public Radio discussing the merits of unstructured free play. Its worth checking out. Especially if you are the parent of a preschooler and are staring at a sign up sheet wondering if this is really how you want your little Maggie to spend her free time (and yours), check it out here.