Do American Children Spend More Time in Unstructured Free Play Today?

American children spent significantly less time in unstructured free play in the late 2000s than they did during the 1980s. A study referenced by the Children and Nature Network found that American children in the early 21st century had an average of nine fewer hours of free time per week than they did in 1981. Another study found that American children age 6 to 8 were spending much more time doing homework and more time in classrooms than they did during the 1980s.

More facts about how American children spend their time:

  • About one-fourth of children age 9 to 12 are involved in at least three extracurricular activities.

  • Studies suggest that having unstructured play time is crucial to a child's mental, psychological and emotional development. Children who have little free time are more likely to be stressed and have emotional and cognitive problems.

  • Research suggests that after about age 6, American children spend more time watching television than playing.

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