What is Unstructured Play and How Does it Benefit Kids?
Unstructured play is a category of play that has no specific learning objective to it. The play is very open-ended and has no particular strategy. This type of play is child-led, which often leads to play being more creative and improvised. Unstructured play doesn’t necessarily mean a child plays alone. Play partners in the form of peers, siblings, and even parents can definitely take part in unstructured play with a young child or preschooler.
Unstructured play allows children the freedom to explore, create and discover without predetermined rules or any guidelines. Studies suggest that unstructured play aids cognitive development while boosting physical development, social and emotional development. It specifically helps creativity and imagination, problem-solving abilities and social skills. Unstructured play gives young kids a sense of freedom and control. It allows them to learn about themselves, their likes and dislikes, without the pressure or burden of expectations. This kind of play is motivated by their own desires and curiosity which will also help them learn and engage better in hobbies or skills that they appreciate.
Benefits of Unstructured Play
1. Creativity & Imagination: Unstructured play gives kids a chance to go crazy with their ideas since there are no rules in play. This gives them an opportunity to come up with their own games, own guidelines and play and engage in activities that suit them best.
2. Problem solving abilities: Since this kind of play allows children to come up with their own games or activities, it always gives them an opportunity to critically think and problem solve. It could be about making teams or even establishing rules of their game. They can communicate with one another and work on problems together to resolve a conflict or question.
3. Social skills: Unstructured play encourages social skills and teamwork. Children take turns, learn to listen and share, develop imaginary scenarios and make decisions as a team. Because they are the ones driving play, they have the chance to learn on their own among friends. It also encourages positive interactions with their peers. Building social skills at a young age is an important aspect in the real and grown up world.
4. Improves decision making skills: As mentioned above, unstructured play encourages teamwork. Within a team or small group, your child will learn how to negotiate to get what they want, make compromises and develop decision-making skills. These skills are important as they also assist in emotional development and cognitive reasoning to help your child develop an awareness of other people’s feelings.
5. Encourages physical activity: With no rules, children can engage in whatever activity they please - be it running around the yard, climbing trees or even a game of hide and seek. It helps them get off their electronic devices and engage in more physical activity which is good for their health.
6. Fosters a sense of independence: Independent play is a great way for your kid to build confidence and do something for themselves. With a parent or mentor instructing them, kids gain a sense of responsibility for their play. This will help your child find their passion and hobbies or skills that they are naturally drawn to, which will help them strengthen their liking for it. They have the freedom to make their own choice which will give them a sense of personality. Our STEM kits encourage independent play as it engages kids in hands-on learning activities such as building a volcano, building 100% natural beeswax candles and more. Engage your kid in independent play with Banyan Tree Kidz.
Breaking routines may seem like a task but will do your kids good. Encourage unstructured play by exploring new environments, limiting screen time, have DIY craft kits at home, let your kids get messy, say yes to things that you would usually not allow during a routine, invite friends for a playdate and so on.
Unstructured play therefore completely eliminates the feeling of boredom in kids. It instead promotes imagination, inventiveness, and improving your child’s happiness through play. Allowing your kids to engage in unstructured play will improve their physical and cognitive muscles and most importantly, help your child understand their greatest strengths, passions, personality traits and the cherry on the top - to have fun!