The importance of free play

by | Rinka News

Imaginations are the most wonderful part of childhood! That cardboard box is the most magical place and so it should be. Children are much more content when they are able to amuse themselves and not require instant gratification or constant approval. There is very little we associate more with childhood than playtime but many children aren’t being given anywhere near enough free time to explore, discover and learn.

“Children are designed, by natural selection, to play,” Peter Gray, Ph.D., a research professor at Boston College, wrote in a 2011 article in the American Journal of Play. “Wherever children are free to play, they do.”

Free play allows children to:

  • Develop their creativity and imagination
  • Encourages them to interact with the world around them
  • Builds their interpersonal skills
  • Helps conquer fears and build and confidence
  • Develops their decision making ability

Free play is unstructured by nature and isn’t meant to be lead by adults. It’s a child’s opportunity to think for themselves and to do what feels natural and enjoyable and it most certainly isn’t meant to be passive – no computer games, phones or screens allowed!!

Allowing children to get bored is very important. Let them feel the boredom and then come up with an idea of how to overcome it. Resist the temptation to offer suggestions and allow your child to think for themselves. The more they do this, the more they will come to rely on their own imagination to entertain themselves.

Encourage play dates, keep a selection of open-ended toys on hand like skipping ropes, hoolahoops, balls and dolls on hand – toys that don’t have rules associated with them encourage the imagination.

Get involved too! Go on nature walks, play dress up, cut back on screen time and lead by example – are you making time for your own free play?!

It is the simple things that will help reawaken the natural creativity of youth.