What Is Free Play, And Why Is It Essential For My Child?


Let’s talk about free play. As children start preschool earlier and earlier and play becomes less of a priority, we see the backlash.

Free Play as a Pastime

When you think about play during your own childhood (assuming it was one of relative peace), what do you think about? Were you one of those “free range” children whose mother simply said, “be back by five” on weekends and during the summertime? Or who knew that your butt better be home the second she called you for dinner?

The Effects of the Loss of Childhood Play

Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play also offers an ideal opportunity for parents to engage fully with their children. 

What are the Benefits of Free Play for Kids?

The benefit of play is that children are more relaxed while playing instead of sitting still and listening intently (while that does have a purpose, too).

What Happened to Prioritized Free Play?

If play is so important to child development, what happened to it? The American Academy of Pediatrics notes several factors that have contributed to the decline in play.

What Is Free Play?

It is important to note that when we say “play,” we mean child-directed FREE play. Play should be relatively unstructured (depending on the child’s age) and should be led by the child.

Incorporating Free Play Into Daily Life

Here are some ideas for free play during the early years. These are perfect ways to let your child’s imagination run wild without spending a lot of effort or money!

Toddlers (1-3 years)

Active play requires imagination, while passive play needs limited imagination. Active play also involves physical activity, which supports development and proper physical growth!

Toys to Facilitate Toddler Free Play

In Katy’s recent post about toys for toddlers, she mentions several toys that can be great active play resources for your child: - A water table - Building blocks - Etc.

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Indoor Scavenger Hunts for Young Kids 

(Printable cards that can be rearranged to create tons of different hunts, divided by ages from 2-7 years old)

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