The Benefit and Importance of Unstructured Play

Posted by Pam Clay on Sep 29, 2016 9:20:53 AM

We live in a time of planning, prepping, and Pokemoning, but there is nothing children need more than unstructured play time. Most of our lives consist of scheduling and structuring our days to some extent. Of course, I contribute to this structured world, within my classroom and at home. Right now, I’m even more structure-oriented in my daily life because I think it will help my baby sleep at night (little do I know)!

DSC_0115.jpgI think back to my childhood and yes I participated in soccer, gymnastics, tennis, and other activities, but the majority of my time after school and throughout the summer was spent running from yard to yard with my friends on Velvet Hill Drive. I know times have changed, but there’s something to say about the unstructured play that so many of us experienced growing up, and the benefits from that play that we are reaping now. I’ve become a collaborative grade partner, hardworking lower school teacher, nurturing mom, and respectful wife. I think some of my most important social skills came from figuring out how to play in an unstructured environment.

Much of our children's free time becomes structured without us even thinking about it. Whether it’s a teacher-led game at recess, a sports activity after school, or simply a video game, children are not typically leading the way. Instead, they need to run in the leaves, climb a tree, or make up some imaginative game with their friends. Per, “Free unstructured play helps children build a wide range of skills necessary for success in school and out, from making friends and negotiating to problem solving, thinking DSC_0103-1.jpgcreatively, and practicing self control.” The benefits of unstructured play are crucial for the development of the whole child: Mind, Body, and Character. Some key lessons it provides, as listed on

  • Character virtues
  • Social skills
  • Physical development
  • Self-discovery

I’m not saying there should be no structure in our days, but I do think more unstructured play is something we should all consciously think about in order to provide our children with the necessary interpersonal skills they need to successfully live and work as adults. It’s time to get out there and play!

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Topics: Play, Unstructured Play