The many benefits of Free Play
Play really IS the work of our children. Not that it feels like work to them though. For our kids, engaging in play comes as naturally as breathing and I’m sure you’ve all heard many times about the benefits of play. Or more specifically, play-based learning, where specific skills and knowledge are developed through play and play scenarios. We know that play encourages cognitive development. We know that play supports language development and vocabulary expansion. We know that play encourages fine and gross motor skill development. However, how can we specifically use ‘play’ to support our children’s emotional wellbeing? Enter my favourite type of play- Free Play. Also known as Child-led Play. It is the type of play that is completely initiated by the child and driven by their own natural curiosity, interest and enthusiasm. Examples of free play include; creating artworks or constructions from a range of materials, engaging in imaginary play or role play activities with others, using blocks and other open-ended toys that have a multitude of uses and functions...the list goes on! As parents we want what’s best for our kids and in the attempt to provide more support and maximising learning during play experiences, we often unknowingly end up directing the play instead by applying too much structure. Allowing our children the opportunity to choose their own play experiences supports their independence and shows them that their interests are valued and recognised. It allows them the freedom to explore their own imagination and to operate at a higher level of thinking by applying innovation and creativity to various situations, as opposed to simply following a set of rules or constructs. It provides opportunities to work through their own fears and anxieties by encouraging them to regulate their own emotions as they arise through different play scenarios, such as anger or fear. And finally, the best of all (in my opinion) is that free play builds self esteem, sparks joy and ultimately, lifts our kids up; developing their inner strength and confidence to take risks and overcome adversity.
So, I encourage you to embrace Free Play during your day, and have faith and trust in your child. After all, play is their most important work.