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Unstructured Play

As parents, when we look back at life, one corner of our hearts is filled with lovely memories of our childhood friends, school teachers, grandma’s story times, yummy home cooked food, and unending playtime. There is something about childhood memories that they hold such a special place in our lives. And while come to think of it, our children are presently living and making those memories for themselves to look back upon.

Childhood playtime, silly jokes, unwanted pranks, grandparents pampering, and childhood fights all of these play an important role in making of these precious memories. These play an indispensable role in making happy / healthy children who can lead fulfilling lives.

Apart from memories, Childhood Play experiences do teach our kids life skills and help in shaping their overall personalities. From sense of being loved to developing the kids self esteem, from handling social relationships to developing the art of negotiations, Play helps develop and practice these Life skills in kids abundantly.

However today we will be discussing about a special kind of play called the Unstructured Play or Free play and why we should let our kids just play without putting structure, rules and goals to their games. Unstructured play refers to the kind of play in which kids engage in open-ended play with no specific learning goal. So there are no coaches, no uniforms, no directions  and no organised teams in this Unstructured Play. Additionally the game also keeps on evolving as kids start playing it. Thus, it is oodles of fun and has been found to be vitally important for the brain and body development of growing kids.

Few Examples of Unstructured Play are as follows:

  • Hula hoops
  • Cardboard boxes
  • Paper towel rolls
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Blocks
  • Bucket of water and a sponge
  • Sticks and rocks
  • Marbles
  • Buttons
  • Piggy bank full of coins
  • Pillow fight
  • Doodle on the driveway with sidewalk chalk.
  • A make-believe game where toy cars are the main characters.
  • Forts and castles erected using old sheets, pillows and the couch.
  • Build towers, rockets, boats, and more with cardboard boxes.

Studies indicate a lot of advantages of unstructured games, and as a result, there are a lot of open-ended toys given to the kids encouraging them to use them in multiple ways. It helps in stimulating developmental milestones. Let us discuss in detail how unstructured play can help in the all-round development of your kid.

Marked Change in Brain Structure

Neuroscience experts have noted that play or games without rules help in a change in the structure of a brain that is developing as it strengthens neuron connections in the prefrontal cortex. In simple words, the control center area of the brain responsible for making plans, solving problems and regulating emotions changes in meaningful ways. Kids are encouraged to try out different ways and strategies with no specific goals in sight. It helps them to react in a more fluid, flexible and swift fashion.

Activates High-Order Thinking Among Kids

Unstructured play enables neocortex area of the brain which is responsible for higher functions like language, thinking, and spatial reasoning. When playing such games, kids expand their vocabulary as they have to put across some thought to his other playmates and start thinking in different ways which also help them to come up with a lot of solutions to a single problem. This becomes a skill imbibed in them for use in various forms later in lives.

Self Awareness:

Unstructured play is important for a child because it gives them a sense of freedom and control. It also allows them to learn about themselves, what they like and don’t like, and even make mistakes without feeling any pressure or failure.

Positive Interaction With Others

Playing a variety of games is one of the best ways to teach youngsters the art of interaction with others. They learn positive interaction with their playmates which in turn help in building pro-social brains.

Improved Imagination& creativity

Kids who play unstructured games tend to be more creative and imaginative since they are always thinking and acting in the game.

High Academic Performance

It has been noted that the kids who play unstructured games are better academic performers as their mind is primed to tackle a challenge in ingenious ways. They are better thinkers and solution finders which helps them a lot in their studies.

Increased Physical Activity

In modern times when kids are fast becoming slaves of technology, unstructured games get them moving and indulge in increased physical activities. Instead of spending time on a variety of electronic devices where they get no physical exercise, they are encouraged to run around in the yard, climb on stairs or trees, or move around in general.

Improved Imagination& creativity

Kids who play unstructured games tend to be more creative and imaginative since they are always thinking and acting in the game.

So how do we as parents facilitate Unstructured Play:

In these modern times when parents have little or no time to spend with their kids, the trend of unstructured games is rapidly declining. Fortunately, parents have started realising the significance of free play and they are encouraging their kids to play games sans any rules or guidelines. It can be done by providing the kids with

  • Age appropriate open ended toys that helps them to unleash their creativity.
  • Large space to freely move around and play
  • Plenty of time to just let them be themselves.
  • Instead of signing up your kids for a variety of classes, give him freedom to play his games

So, next time when you see your kid wanting to spend time on his own or telling you about the new game he has devised. Have a big smile; jump in and join in the fun.

Read More about positive benefits of Outside Play here.

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Penmancy November 16, 2018 at 8:41 pm

I completely agree here that unstructured play is so important for growing children, not only because it improves their physical abilities but aids in their emotional, social and sociological abilities as well. Great article.! Good luck with your project!

Reply November 16, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Hey thanks! Good to have you here on Cafewhiz. 🙂


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