The Importance of Unstructured Play

The majority of children’s time is spent playing. Playtime is crucial to children’s development as it is the basis for several developmental skills. From learning to hold a toy to bringing observed social skills into pretend play, playtime is where children can explore their creativity and test new social, physical, and cognitive skills.

Children exhibit several different types of play throughout their development. From playing alone to working with others to solve problems, each is equally important to a child’s growth. Unstructured play is one form of play that targets several critical development skills in children.

Unstructured play is just how it sounds. Children are able to lead themselves in open-ended play—play that lacks an agenda. Unstructured play nurtures creativity, problem-solving skills, and exploration. Giving children that freedom leads to the explosion of imagination. According to a study by the Society for Research in Child Development, researchers noticed that “every object is a potential play object.” This can include everyday objects all around the child, not necessarily just toys.

Unstructured play looks different from time to time. When appropriate, children can join peers during this time. They learn to work together to solve problems, explore different avenues of imagination, and bounce off each other’s ideas.

Also known as free play, unstructured play requires a bit of preparation from adults. Provide children with different materials for their unstructured play, including:

  • Toys
  • Markers
  • Blocks
  • Water
  • Boxes
  • Paper
  • Anything that could provide for safe exploration

These seemingly simple objects allow for endless creativity in little ones’ brains. Try promoting unstructured play in your home, and let us know what happens!