Two fundamental ways in which children learn to engage with the world are through structured play and free play. They develop critical life-long skills through play. As child development expert Syeda Sazia Zaman highlights, “Play is at the core of the child’s development!”
Structured play involves activities organised and guided by adults, often with specific goals or objectives in mind. On the other hand, free play involves unstructured activities that allow children to explore and learn on their terms. There are many benefits to both structured and free play.
Structured play can help children develop a wide range of skills, such as teamwork, problem-solving, and physical coordination. Structured play is essential in teaching children about the world around them and how to engage with the world.
Examples of structured play include:
- Building puzzles
- Playing hopscotch
- Making playdough
- Playing and catching a ball in a particular game
- Step-by-step crafts
- Board games and more
Incorporating structured play into everyday life can be fun. Get your little ones involved in baking, gardening or even folding the laundry and give them goals for their tasks.
Exploring the world to discover how things work independently is equally significant. This is where free play comes in. Free play allows children to unleash their imagination and creativity in new and exciting ways unique to them. It will enable them to explore their interests and everything that intrigues them to learn about the world around them in their way and at their own pace. Examples of structured play include:
- Outdoor play
- Sand and water play
- Building blocks
- Dress up and pretend play
- Child-led play
Encouraging free play at home is simple. Create safe spaces for your children to play, so you’re not constantly hovering over them. Listen to your child and go along with their suggestions. This way, they build confidence in their exploration through play.
This type of play can also help children develop must-have social skills, such as cooperation and communication, as they interact with their little peers. Nursery school might be right around the corner, and this is where they will exercise these lessons learned.
One of the main differences between structured and free play is the level of adult involvement. In structured play, adults are typically very involved, providing guidance and direction to the children. In free play, adults often take a more hands-off approach, allowing the children to explore and learn independently. In other words, moms and dads, you can back off and let them play as they need to.
Parents and caregivers must balance structured and free play in a child’s life. By providing a mix of structured and free play, parents and caregivers can help children develop a wide range of skills and abilities that will serve them well throughout their lives. So, what are you waiting for…let them play.