Monday, November 4, 2013

Why Unstructured Play Is So Valuable

It's amazing what will transpire when kids play and work together.  I have seen cardboard towns, drawn out blue prints for "working" areas in chalk on my driveway, large stick and block structures, plans for catching creatures to sell for profit, organized operations to win at hide and seek type games, lemonade stands, a garage band trying to write a song while using old toys to make music, and grand schemes to "dig to China," in the sand.

I tend to see and hear about these kinds of collaborations when children are given time to play freely, with no agenda in mind, and adult interference at a minimum.  The benefits of this type of play are not always seen by adults.  I can hear the valuable reasons why children love and gain from this play outside the windows of my home on the weekend:  

  • I have heard negotiations and debates.
  • I have heard leaders and followers.
  • I have heard coaching and reassurance.
  • I have heard encouragement and opposition.
  • I have heard children taking a stand.
  • I have heard children trying to find their place.

What I wrote above is true; my son has learned a lot by learning from and with other kids.  He doesn't come running to us as much as he used to when a problem needed solving because he's had so much opportunity to practice in his unstructured play with other children.  We love play dates, but I have not seen the same kind of play happening.  Sometimes there is something planned, and sometimes (though we try not to too much), as adults we interfere with things that they could work out themselves if we let them.

What have you heard or seen during unstructured playtime?


  1. Just yesterday we were at the park and happened to meet with another little girl and her mom. The two kids were having so much fun together, running, pretending, exploring, that I hated to leave and we stayed at the park an extra-long time just because I knew she was having fun, but also getting so much out of it too. I love this type of unstructured, it-just-happens playtime!

    1. Exactly! It-just-happens! I love that phrase.


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