When you first hear about ‘Free Play’, it probably sounds very modern, liberal and up to date or maybe you have never even heard about it. However, it’s a very interesting concept that will be beneficial to all parents for us to touch the basic aspects of free play and share it with everyone since it is one of the best things to provide for children during the early stages of their child development.
What is Free Play?
Free play is any kind of activity or game that children play where they have the freedom to develop the game in any direction that they want. ‘Free Play’ is described by the Charity Play England as “Children choosing what they want to do, how they want to do it and when to stop or to try something else.”
“Free play has no external goals set by adults and has no adult imposed curriculum. Although adults usually provide the space and resources for free play and might be involved, the child takes the lead and the adults respond to cues from the child”.
Why is the concept so important?
Free play encourages a child to be happy and gives them a sense of adventure, allowing the child to take the lead. In free play we don't push the children or pressurize them- they develop in their own way and own time, giving them independence.
Free play supports children’s physical development
Physical development is very important for children's overall development and improves their gross motor skills as they are growing up. Moving the different part of their bodies, sitting up, rolling, crawling, walking, running, jumping, holding and manipulating different materials or objects are examples of ways in which they use and control their bodies to explore the environment and learn about the world.
What to do to get the best results with Free Play
To make sure our children are physically active enough, all we need to do is provide a well planned and equipped playground which offers a range of physical challenges. It is very simple and easy to create a sports day related activity for children, for example a game with a ball or a dancing day for your children in the back garden. Obviously we have many more choices when it comes to activities during the summer time since you can play many games outdoors even if they are usually an indoor game. However, this doesn’t mean that other seasons are less interesting to spend outdoors- you will just have to be a little more prepared for example with warmer clothing etc. Also bare in mind that physical well-being is linked to mental health and being outside in nature will be a wonderful way to have a positive and healthy mind and body.
Free Play promotes cognitive, personal, social, emotional and language development
Free play promotes self confidence and self-awareness. Children become more confident to try a wide range of activities and then be able to express why they like some activities more than others. It helps them to talk about their ideas and express their feelings more as well as being able to say when they do or don't need help. They become more confident to choose the resources they need for their chosen activities by themselves. They develop their own thinking skills and are not afraid to make choices. Free play encourages children's cognitive development and ability to work out their problems. It helps to manage their feelings and their behaviour, teaching them how to cope with new experiences and a new environment. Free play is a great way to be social, create relationships with others and learn cooperative play. In free play they work as part of a group and as a team member, they learn to understand and follow certain rules. Free play helps children to adjust their behaviour to different situations making their personalities more flexible and it promotes to changes of routine in their stride.
In free play, children learn the value of cooperation, sharing one another's ideas and of being amongst other people. By playing freely without restrictions and strict rules, they pay attention to others needs and feelings and build positive relationships with the people around them. Free play develops their sense of identity and what they understand.
Examples of free play:
Drama or role-play
Playing with dough or clay
Painting and drawing
Colouring, cutting and gluing
Dressing up and playing with dolls
Jigsaws and building blocks
Dancing and singing
Playing simple musical instruments, hearing and listening
Recent fundamental changes in the world and children’s needs
No matter if we agree or not to the opinion, today’s world is subject to constant changes and it is uncertain in many ways- from unstable political landscape through professional careers to increasingly digital economies and social life. The modern technologies have fundamentally changed our world and our lives. For example, the way we knew the the world 20 years ago doesn't exist any more. In this new generation, our children need to gain skills to step into this ''uncertain'' digital world to love, be happy, healthy to create opportunities for themselves and for their community.
To conclude, the nature of free play and the atmosphere that free play creates is a mirror of this contemporary world. It absolutely prepares children very well to interact, to integrate and be able to settle in today’s society.
What kind of Free Play activities have you tried with your kids? Let us know in the comments below!