F is for Free Play

This post is in celebration of the great blog Teach Preschool who has hit a huge milestone of 20,000 followers on facebook.  She asked bloggers to help her celebrate by choosing one letter of the alphabet to highlight.  You can check out all the other letters on her blog.

I chose to talk about something that doesn't have a lot to do with art, but something I think is important for all children to have.

F is for Free Play

It seems sometimes kids don't have much time for free play.  Between television, school, homework, soccer practice, dance class, karate lessons, piano lessons, and mom trying to teach kids as well; kids seem to have less and less time to just play.  This over-scheduling of our children is hard to not do.  My kids are at school for 8 hours with the bus ride to and from.  By the time they walk in the door at 4 pm, we are left with not much time for anything.  Schedule a few extra curricular activities like soccer, tee ball, dance, or piano and they don't have much time for anything else.  Reports are even finding that some children are so over scheduled they are becoming stressed.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has even suggested that Pediatricians start checking children's levels of stress.  

Play is very important to a child's development.  Free play is not adult organized.  It is unstructured and imaginative. Experts say that free play is essential to a child's growth and development.  There are many believed benefits to free play.   In an article by the AAP, several benefits were found.

aids in the development of a strong child/parent bond.
helps children to develop creativity.
allows children to develop dexterity.
encourages children to interact with the world around them.
helps children learn confidence
grants children the opportunity to practice decision making skills
important to healthy brain development
during play children practice adult roles.
teaches children how to work in groups and to share, compromise and learn self advocacy.  
helps children discover their own areas of interest.
build active healthy bodies

Sometimes, especially while reading all the many wonderful blogs out there, I feel my children need more structure and more activities provided by me.  I see other kids who are excelling in ways my children seem to not be (my kids have never been in any organized sports or music lessons and I often feel guilty for this.)  It is a competitive world we live in and when you see other children doing so many things it is important not to feel the pressure to put your own children into that competitiveness.  Free play is essential and important.  Parents need to feel they are not failing to just allow their kids to be.  It is also important to know what your kids can handle.  I think organized sports and instruction to be important too, but signing kids up for too many is where the harm comes in.  My 7 year is taking her first organized sport starting this fall.  I wanted so much to put her in dance, piano, and soccer.  I decided to let her chose one and soccer won out.  I may add piano to it at one point, but feel the importance of allowing her to still have plenty of free time. 

Do you schedule free play in your house?  Do you find it hard to have time for free play?  Does your school have adequate free play time?


  1. Congratulations on the Parents Magazine rating. I love your blog!

    Just curious what part of Western PA you are in? My family is from Greensburg (Westmoreland Co.) from way, way back. Like from 1780!

  2. What a wonderful post to add to our ABC's! Thank you for sharing your link with us!

  3. Exactly why I'm starting a preschool! Too much of that being left out of the school systems. children are becoming unfamiliar with their own imaginations...very sad. I love this post Laura...keep it up, you're an inspiration!

  4. Well said and backed up with super photos. Free play is so under-rated. Thanks for flagging up this issue.

  5. Wonderful post! I agree kids are too over scheduled! I let my 5 year old be in one activity at a time and that is how it will be for a while. I've met parents that totally over schedule their kids and it is upsetting to me! One parent said that her kids can't ride their bikes because we are never home to practice!! I've heard of younger adults in the workforce that are unable to do things without instruction because they are so use to being told what to do because they have never had free time to do things without instruction!!!
    I hope more parents will realize the importance of free play because of posts like yours!! Thanks!

  6. Spot on! Time to 'just be'... so, so important! You are right, never feel guilty about allowing your children an abundance of free time to observe, explore and interact with their environment... to engage in free thinking imaginative play. You are giving your child exactly what they need! Say 'no' to the 'hurried child' syndrome! A great post with pictures that speak a thousand words! :)

  7. Well put! My own children have been involved in sport for many years, but never too much & only what they want to do. The trouble is now getting the teenager to do anything at all. haha

  8. So much of the time in my classroom is simply play - the 'trick' to good teaching is to make every moment fun and feel like play! Love your post!

  9. Um . this is definitely a two part answer, when my children were younger free play is what we did, we didn't name it as such, but children were expected to play, not watch TV all the time. When we went to the beach which was several times a week, we turned them loose, they explored their world, we were often there from early morning to sundown. It gave them time to climb the rocks, dig in the sand build a fort with seaweed, driftwood and surfboards. Our house was uncontaminated by things such as flashcards for preschoolers. Children learn best when they play, reading was encouraged by reading to them and pointing out letters and words in their environment. Everyone of our children could read when they started kindergarten, despite the fact that we didn't do any formal indoctrination with flashcards and hooked on phonics and such. As for organized sports we played them, even my husband and I played adult softball until recently, but none of our children were signed up for anything before they were five or six, depending on the child.
    As for the preschool program I run we still use the play model, no work sheets will cross the threshold while I'm in charge. We work on letter recognition through puzzles and painting and conversation with the children. And the children choose what they would like to play, everyone is encouraged to the craft or art of the day, but no one is made to do it.

  10. I feel this post is so important, I'd like to share it with every family in my school of 150 students! Your photos beautifully illustrate the advantages of free play. Would you mind being re-printed?

  11. We LOVE free play too. Your children are being given the greatest start in life. After all ... what's the hurry!
    Donna :) :)

  12. Brenda, I don't have your email or anywhere to know who you are to respond. Please email me at art4littlehands@gmail.com to talk about re-pinting this.

  13. I love this post. Seriously, free play is great. My kids could do it all day if they could just get along :). I hope I haven't stressed out Lou by having her in 2 things, but they were both her choice and she loves them.

  14. Hi, I've been readin a lot about the benefits of free play but what happens when I set aside time for that and all my boy does was to sit in his favourite arm chair, hug a few favourite toys and do nothing. He could sit in his chair for over an hour... Is that healthy?


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