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Saturday, June 22, 2019

Why Choice and Freedom During Playtime is So Important

Photo by ThomasLife - Flickr

Happy June! I hope you're enjoying some beautiful weather outdoors! Schools all over the place will be starting summer break soon if they haven't already. When most of us think back to summer break from school, our minds fill with memories of long hours of freedom. I rarely stop to think about it, but really the essence of playtime is free time. When we feel relaxed, fun and a sense of playfulness follow. That's why even if we're setting up structured playtime for children, it's important to still give them a sense of freedom.

Different Styles of Play

We should recognize that there are different styles and types of play that can be used to enhance play while trying to keeping it free and imaginative.

Social Play - Children play with others at team sports and cooperative activities, or they role-play imaginative scenarios.

Independent Play - Children play alone, but they are often engaged with action figures, stuffed toys, puzzles, or the environment around them.

Guided Play - Children play in the context of a situation that an adult has arranged. This can be a teacher, parent, or camp counselor presenting an opportunity for play and giving them an objective.

There are ways to make all styles of play creative and free.

The Benefits of Free Play

  • Play teaches children problem-solving skills. If children have the freedom to push limits or encounter a problem during play, they develop the skills to find ways out and persevere.
  • When children are playing imaginary games, their emotions can be provoked. Free play is a safe environment for children to grow more comfortable with emotions like fear, anxiety, and sadness. They'll learn how to cope with these feelings while playing.
  • Free play gives children greater confidence as they learn how to entertain themselves and feel prepared to overcome challenges.
  • When children feel free while playing, they reduce their stress and anxiety as they feel free from scrutiny and judgment.
  • Free play inspires creativity and curiosity. Kids might even discover new passions and interests while playing if they have the freedom to explore.
  • When kids have free play outside and interact with the environment, they develop an appreciation and respect for the natural world.
  • Children who have freedom of choice while playing improve their decision-making skills.
  • When children play freely and socially, they work on teamwork, cooperation, and good communication with others as they play and take on challenges together.

Tips for Free Play

  • Schedule some free time for play that gets kids away from screens. Some children will need more of a structured play environment than others. If you're little one is in need of more structure, you can set up a playroom or space outdoors with activities and toys ready to go. The key is to provide choice!
  • Encourage children to use readily available resources for play! This can include empty boxes, recyclables, rocks, shells, leaves, and more.
  • Play together! Nothing gets children out of their shell like an adult ready to engage in play with them and model play behavior and ideas. Who says adults can't have fun too?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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