Tips For Unstructured Free Play
Unstructured free time is an integral part of childhood. Schools are shortening recess time or taking it away altogether and replacing it with more structured activities, thus taking away a big part of their unstructured free playtime. That alone is ruining the ability of children to creatively play, run, jump and exercise, and explore. As teachers and parents, children are important to us, and there are ways that we can actively make sure that they get their unstructured free playtime.
What is Unstructured Free Play Time?
Unstructured play is when children engage in open-ended play. Children are allowed to decide how and what they are going to play at playground equipment. They are also entitled to determine what the outcome of their play is going to be. Yes, they still need supervision, but they do not need instructions on who to play with, what to play with, or what the scenario is. During this type of play, children are allowed to be just that children.
They have the opportunity to move about, explore, and interact without guidance and instruction. They are in turn learning through experience and use their motor skills on their own, in their way. The best part is they are learning lessons and don't even feel like they are learning.
Now many teachers and parents may question why when they tell children to play, and the child doesn't know what to do, they don't know how to free play. The answer is they aren't getting enough unstructured free playtime. Here are some great tips to encourage unstructured play.
Tips to Encourage Unstructured Free Play
Limit Screen Time
Cut back on the use of electronics like tablets, video games, t.v. And computers. Restrict children to a time limit each day or even limit the amount of time and the days that they get to use electronic devices. Granted, this is a cheap babysitter, and it's keeping them quiet, but it's not teaching them to play, be creative, and interact socially with other children.
When a child can walk me through a video game but not build a lego tower, there is a problem with that. They need unstructured playtime, and they need to make their creations and play and interact. At the point, a child can't go outside and play cowboys and villains because they have no clue how it's time to limit screen time and get their minds and bodies working.
Let Them Create
Raining and can't go outside, let children sit down and create. Keep a treasure box with odds and ends in it that they can design and build with it. Fill it with paper rolls, glue, beads, buttons, crayons, markers, paper, paint, scissors, and other crafty items. Open the box and let them create their world, their ideas, and their projects. It's merely fulfilling to sit back and watch a child create something that comes from their mind. Give them the occasional box they can decorate, color, hide in, and make-believe they are in their world.
Paint, glue, glitter, scrap paper, and material, buttons, beads, clay, play-doh, shells, and stones all make for high open-ended art supplies. Children can be extremely creative and create masterpieces all while experimenting with textures and styles. They can learn to use their minds and hands to be entertained for hours.
Take them outside, and let them dig in the dirt, find worms and rolly pollies. Let them cops and robbers, ride bikes, kick a ball around or play catch. Just let them run and jump and play at used commercial playground equipment for sale. They may even want to roll around in the grass or play hide and seek with a neighbor child. Get them outdoors to soak up the sun and fresh air.
You will thank yourself later when they are worn out and want to take a nap or chill out and give you a few minutes of quiet inside. You can catch up on laundry or doing other housework while they are resting up for their next burst of energy. Getting them outside will also keep you from going insane with their loud noises bouncing off the walls. Being outdoors also lets them explore their environment and learn about the world around them.
Let Them Get Messy
Let them help cook in the mixing ingredients. Take them outside and let them finger paint, play with foam paint, make mud, spread out plastic, and play with soap and water to make a slip and slide. Remember that outdoors the mess is easier to clean up, you can spray the children off with a hose, the driveway, patio, and the grass it can all be hosed down and cleaned easily. Getting messy allows children to explore textures and sensations, touch, it will enable them to be creative and get dirty and have fun.
Give them Unstructured Free Play Time.
Don't be afraid for the kids to be kids. We all want them to learn, but children don't always want to be restricted and directed. They want to be free and play and have fun and guess what they learn that way too. Children can't sit still for long periods and be lectured and instructed, and they need that time to play freely and makeup games and characters. Children learn through exploring, being creative, trial, and error and making mistakes. Allow children to have unstructured free play time, they need it, and they deserve it
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