There are many types of play for children, and they all have their importance. Structured play allows children to learn rules, routines, and social skills under the guidance of an adult. Free play, on the other hand, is about unstructured playtime where the adult’s role changes to be supportive and led by the child.
Allowing children time to engage in free play gives them the opportunity to explore their environments and the different things found in these environments. They can learn to solve problems, and more importantly, they can be allowed to learn from mistakes and taking risks. This all helps shape how they interpret the world and how they develop emotionally, socially, and cognitively. It will allow them to build resilience and self-confidence.
So, how can you set this up for your kids?
You are responsible for choosing the play environment, which can be both indoors and outdoors, and for supplying the resources for your children to play. As the adult you can choose materials aimed at developing different skills for children, and from the observation of the children playing, you will know what interests they have and which activities they favour.
The importance of allowing your child unscheduled and unstructured time to use their imagination, create their own play experience, and take the leading role is important. It is, however, also vitally important to remember that the size of the play space doesn’t matter, as long as it’s safe, children can create and explore during their free play time.
Another important aspect of free play is that the adult’s role should remain passive. Although this is much easier said than done, it’s important to remember that risk is an integral part of free play and sometimes adult’s being over cautious may reduce the opportunity of children challenging themselves.
Although free play is an important part of development and learning for children, as with all things in life, there are other types of play to balance alongside this. For children to enhance their skills in all areas of development, such as language, and fine and gross motor skills, there are other types of play to include in their development, such as the structured play and they would enjoy in a Clamber Club class.
There are so many ways you can incorporate free play into your child’s day. Just remember to have a safe environment for them to explore, take a step back from structure and routine, and let them take the lead in doing what they do best.