Already a month passed since we’ve been self quarante ourselves since we are expecting a child in August, yes it can be a bit overwhelming staying indoors, but I reached out to one of our experts Christina and she has a solution to all families who are staying mostly indoors until this pandemic hopefully passes 🙂 Christina all yours 😉
Let them play!
With all that is going around us and with all the ideas and information we are receiving as to what we can do at home with our children, I for one can say that it gets pretty overwhelming! There is art to do, literacy, crafts, maths, gross motor activities… Need I go on? Add this to our own work and house chores plus some much-needed time to ourselves and instead of having the slow life everyone is raving about at the moment we start to live the exact opposite. Today I am going to preach! I want you all to know that one of the most important types of play is actually free-play! The play that you do not direct and that the child leads… play that you do not prepare anything at all! Haven’t convinced you? Here are the benefits:
Helps develop creativity
If you had to have a toy, you would very often play with it differently to how a child does. If I had a stack of cups I would build a tower. If I gave it to my daughter, she would probably place them in a neat row and fill them up with small toys. If I gave them to my son… they would surely be used as bullets aimed at all of us around the house 😁 Point being, if I impose my play on them, I would be killing the power of their creativity. So, when you give them a toy, new or not, just lay back and watch what they do with it… you would be amazed!
Children tend to move about more when playing freely. If we are doing an activity together (unless it’s a planned movement activity) they are often restricted to sitting down next to us. But you know what a room looks like after a child has played in it which is evidence enough of all the movement that has occurred 😉
It is therapeutic
Play is powerful! My daughter would pretend to be a mother, bringing her baby to me (the doctor) to help heal her finger. She had a bad accident last October and it was only after she started playing this way that her true emotional healing occurred. She would recount to me what had happened and she would ask me if her baby is going to be ok. She would also pretend to be the nurse and putting ‘bandages’ on our fingers whenever she sees a piece of tape or a sticker still happens daily here!
It teaches social skills
When siblings and friends play together, they inevitably learn about the need for sharing, turn-taking and waiting skills amongst others. There will be a need for conflict resolution countless times but this too is an important social skill to be learnt. Other skills learnt include learning how to negotiate and work in groups (reminds you of our CV doesn’t it? )
Free play is vast
Free play can happen at the playground when using the equipment there. It can be at home using a number of open-ended toys. It can happen during free arts and crafts. All that is required from you is that you provide the opportunity to go to the places and making toys and supplies available.
It is relaxing
Free play is the most relaxing both for you and for your child. There is no preparation and there is no agenda. Your child does not feel that she has to follow directions and ‘perform’. They just take the lead and when this happens, you might be taken to the most magical place of play ever. The most powerful and meaningful interactions almost always happen when we are all calm, relaxed and having fun!
It helps develop problem-solving abilities
Children think up the most interesting situations during play. The way they handle these situations are even more interesting! There is more time for exploration during free play and children learn through this. This also gives them the confidence that they can solve problems when they start school. Moreover, free play ‘teaches’ a child what he could do when there is nothing structured happening at the moment. Research shows that children who engage in free play learn how to better use their free time when older.
Helps language and communication development
Young children tend to communicate more during free play. They narrate what is happening, tell you what to do, make dolls ‘talk’ etc. Moreover, free play is so vast, your child needs to create and formulate new sentences constantly to communicate and share what they are doing.
There you have it… 8 fantastic benefits of free play! I would also like to add how essential free play is to children so today please sit back, pour yourself a cup of tea and just let the play be. Sit next to your child, do not direct but get involved when he wants you to.
Free play can be independent also and it is also important for the children to learn how to have some time playing alone. This can be difficult for some so next time I will be giving some tips of how you can facilitate this.
I hope that you have found this article useful. Remember that you are doing a fantastic job even if at times you don’t feel like it. Sometimes we try and overdo things when in reality all children need is love, food and play!
Until next time, keep safe!