FREE PLAY OR STRUCTURED PLAY IS BETTER
My kids do a lot of FREE PLAY. Nothing too structural, nothing too complicated. And it is healthy for the brain! No, you are not reading wrong. It is important for healthy development of the brain. Says who? Says Dr. Chew.
But if you ask which is better – structured play or free play? That’s like asking, which is better – fruits or vegetables? Both are important and very nutritional. Similarly, both kinds of play are important to your child’s growth.
What is structured play
Structured play has a set of rules with specific objectives. Activities like putting puzzle together, following directions to assemble a toy or model airplane, sorting shapes and colours, mandala, tangram, and iroita are structured play. Organised sports, such as badminton, tennis, soccer, and hockey, are also examples of structured activities. Generally speaking, any activity that comes with a set of rules and specific objectives to achieve the ending goal is considered structured play.
Why structured play
Kids do that a lot in school. It helps your child gain social competency, learn the importance of teamwork, learn to identify rules and boundaries, understand objectives, and learn how to achieve goals.
What is free play (unstructured play)
Free play is open ended with unlimited possibilities. Playing with Lego and blocks is free play. So is colouring, drawing, painting and doodling on a piece of blank paper. Playing pretend with dolls and toys is free play. Inventing games to play is free play. Running and jumping around the yard or park is free play. Generally speaking, free play is any time dedicated to allowing your child make up their own rules and objectives as they go along, and to create new limits within their own boundaries.
Why free play
Kids learn best through exploring on their own. It is crucial for your child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth. It is needed for creativity. And believe it or not, boredom is actually good in moderation by stimulating kids to think and create. Play is your child’s way of learning about his body and the world, and he uses all five senses to do it. Through play, your child exercises key skills and qualities, such as independence, creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving.
What we do during our free time
I do more free play with my kids because Sonia already does heaps of structured activities at school, and Arnold will eventually will get there. But I still do structured play at home.
Some times, we will practice tangram, iroita and sorting of colours, shapes and animals at home (structured play). Just recently, Sonia is learning prepositions. I drew some objects on big drawing blocks and gave her specific painting instructions, for example, paint inside the chicken, paint outside the house, paint the bird on top of the tree, paint in between two blocks, etc.
Most of the times, we play with blocks and lego, play pretend with her countless stuff toys, go to the playground, or just anywhere to run and jump about! Just last weekend, while marketing at Marine Parade, we spent a good 30-minute jumping about at the empty space behind the market. The weather was good, air was fresh, and we had ample space. Most importantly, she had so much fun!
And last Sunday, we played with bubbles (it was her birthday present from Heidi & Tiffany). She decided that who catches the most bubbles win! Of course, she won. I was busy snapping pictures of her!
So which is better – free play or structured play?
I say, BOTH.