Today, children get less time than ever to engage in self-directed activities. Read on to discover the importance of free play and make sure your child doesn’t miss out.
By Ashwin Lobo
In today’s competitive world, children are constantly under adult supervision, with parents always trying to ensure that their child is engaged in something productive. While the intention is to ensure the well-being of the child, constant supervision can also stifle his growth. Children need some time for themselves during which they can engage in activities of their choice. In other words, children need some time for free play.
So, what is free play?
Free play is any voluntary activity that a child spontaneously engages in and directs. It can involve outdoor games like running and catching as well as indoor play with toys. Free play is unstructured. This allows her to interact with her immediate environment, and use her imagination and creativity to come up with an activity that keeps her entertained. The concepts of choice and self-direction are crucial in free play. Adults play no part in structuring the activity, nor do they impose any restrictions or time limits within which to complete the activity.
As a parent, you might be hesitant to allow your child to engage in free play due to the fear that she may hurt herself. As a result, you may tend to impose some restrictions on where she can play, who she can play with and the games she can play. However, this goes against the idea of free play and denies your child the opportunity to express herself. Read on to know how exactly your child benefits from engaging in free play.
Free play offers a number of benefits to your child
- Free play boosts self-confidence and independence: The opportunity to devise his own games and engage with the environment has a positive effect on your child’s self-confidence. Since he is left on his own, he uses his creativity to make up games and improvise according to his surroundings and the materials available to play. This activity boosts his confidence and prepares him to use the same lessons in new settings and unfamiliar environments.
- Supports physical development: Free play often involves physical movement such as running, jumping and climbing. This helps to improve a child’s motor skills by enhancing stamina and strength. For very young children, free play involving physical movement is extremely beneficial.
- Promotes social and emotional development: Engaging in free play together helps children develop social and emotional skills. They often role-play scenarios such as going to the doctor, attending school or purchasing items from the shop. Using their imagination, children pretend to be different characters and act out adult roles such as those of mother, father, teacher or shopkeeper. This improves their ability to interact with others and enables them to better understand their own feelings and emotions. They also learn valuable social skills such as sharing, negotiation and waiting for their turn, which help them in the real world.
- Improves language skills: Free play has enormous benefits for young children who are still developing language skills and learning how to speak. It helps children learn by interacting with their peers. While playing together, they speak with each other, develop understanding of different words and their meanings, and pick up on important conversation skills.
- Reinforces classroom learning: Free play can complement and reinforce what children learn in the classroom. When engaging in free play, children often practice and process information they have received in the classroom. After teaching a lesson, giving children some time for free play can help them test the information they have just learnt by putting it into use in imaginary or real situations. This is especially important for young children who are still getting used to the school environment. Free play makes the learning process more fun and makes children feel more comfortable at school.
- Makes children happy: It is important for a child’s emotional development to have some time dedicated to just have fun, the way they want to, without any pressure. Learning through play makes them happy and gives them the confidence to deal with challenges in school and outside it.
Instead of worrying about your child getting hurt during free play, you can ensure his safety by participating in his games with him. This will give you the opportunity to bond with him and observe his talents and problem-solving skills. Allow him to use this time as he wants to, as long as it’s reasonably safe.