While it’s important for children to have a balance between school, structured activities, and unstructured play, little time is left for unstructured play in most children’s lives. From the increased presence of screen time, to a growing emphasis on test-scores, many children only participate in guided activities throughout the day. They no longer have opportunities to freely express themselves and experience learning in the context of imaginative play.
To understand the benefits of unstructured play, you should think in terms of unstructured play vs. structured play. Both types of play have value, but free play gives children the chance to learn new skills at their own pace, on their own terms.
If a child is restricted to guided activities, there’s a risk she won’t experience the same level of development a child engaged in imaginative play would. For example, a young child’s social emotional abilities are connected to his ability to use language to communicate. By participating in free play, he’s interacting with peers and developing both social emotional and language skills through meaningful activities he enjoys. Or, children in a dramatic play center might begin a pretend play scenario, building their creativity and critical thinking skills as they make up their own story and solve problems together.
Discover more benefits of unstructured play with Planning for Play, and bring free play into your home or classroom today!