Why unstructured play is so important for children
Unstructured play is an important part of balanced learning and early childhood development.
Play without goals or structure encourages the brain to respond differently, including regulating emotions and problem solving. It allows children some control over their learning, whilst giving them the freedom to learn and explore without the pressure of achieving a specific goal. Unstructured play, or free play, includes playing with building blocks, drawing and painting, and inventing their own games.
Rather than ultra-organised, adult-led activities, child-led play can often result in more creative output. It’s also great for their social skills, encouraging them to understand teamwork, patience and listening.
The importance of empathy
Free play encourages children to work together to create stories, understand each other’s roles and take on the character of another person. Whether that’s a doctor, pirate, parent - or even an object, like a plant.
Balance extra-curricular activities
As children grow up and attend school full time we begin to introduce new hobbies, like learning instruments and sports, and their days become busy. Unstructured play offers a break, and encourages the development of skills that allow them to easily adapt. There’s no magic number for hobbies, the real question to ask is whether they are truly enjoying them or whether the practice time (and money) could be better spent invested in another activity, or enjoying a break for play time.
Use your child’s free play as a starting point for conversation, exploring emotions, storytelling and group behaviour. How did they come up with the story? How did that make them feel? How do you think that made their friend feel? It’s a great way to extend the learning experience for them.
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