In a world filled with technology at the forefront of existence (which of course has its place), we as parents and caregivers have an increasing role in helping our children focus on the play based side of childhood.
So what is Free Play really?
Generally, Free Play is considered to be a form of unstructured, voluntary, child-initiated and child-led activity. It allows for spontaneous play that comes naturally from a child’s innate curiosity, and enthusiastic, explorative nature.
The benefits are endless! But I have compiled my top few fav benefits of free play below:
🌿 Free play gives children a chance to express their emotions + feelings and gives them a chance to develop a sense of who they are (and how often do we not desire for them to have their own outlet – especially at the ages where language and vocab are still developing)
“Children don’t say, ‘I had a hard day, can we talk?’ They say, ‘Will you come play with me?'”
Read that again.
🌿It provides an opportunity to practice what they’ve learnt when playing with you and discover new play paths as well as new neural paths in the brain.
🌿One study showed that free play activates the fight-or-flight response without triggering cortisol (the stress hormone), so children can actually practice handling danger and naviagte through risk-taking.
🌿It assists with developing executive functions in the brain, which, simply put, is the ability to manage oneself to achieve goals.
So really it’s all about PLAY PLAY and more PLAY! As we provide those fields of free action, we in essence contribute to raising adaptive, creative, resilient, emotionally intelligent and socially confident young adults.
Guidelines for Free Play:
1. Pick and choose your free play toys carefully
These should be toys/objects they’re interested in and that has a good play potential. This simply means that there are lots of different ways to play with one toy.
These can be as simple as stacking cups, empty bottles, which have endless opportunities for play or the more more complex toy optional such as battery operated musical toys.
2. Make sure your area is a YES space.
This means you’ve ensured a safe closed off space that your little one can play and explore with minimal monitoring and minimal time spent on saying ‘No, dont do that’ or ‘Don’t touch that’ .
3. Less is more
Too many toys can lead to sensory overload, which will result in either no play at all, frustration, anxiety and feelings of dysregulation.
Decrease the clutter and keep it simple with a few designated toys/ objects, which ultimately creates more space for actual play to take place.
4. Toy Rotation
There’s research that shows toy rotation is extremely beneficial for play and development.
This includes the fact that it actually enhances a child’s creativity and play exploration tendancies.
We rotate toys every 4-6 weeks. Bringing back the novelty of M’s toys increases learning opportunities and enhances concentration and focused attention.
The time a child engages in free play will always be different each time. It is dependent on a variety of factors but should be taken at the child’s pace. If you’re in need of some extra tome for your own tasks its always helpful to habe back up free play toys/objects. You can then attempt to extend free play by adding in a new element/toy or object.
Happy Playing lovelies! 💕