Play is imperative for the development of healthy children. By definition, free play is intrinsically motivated and not provoked by instrumental goal-directed behaviour.
Free play is unorganized play. This means that it is a goal in itself. Free play does not have external rules or specific structure. Αctivities such as board games and organized sports are not considered free play.
There are three main types of free play:
- physical activity play
- object play, i.e. playing with toys or other objects
- pretend play, i.e. imaginative, make-believe, fantasy or symbolic play
Latest research studies indicate that children's play has become more organised and that children spend less time in outdoor free play. Play experts and pediatricians express concerns that the lack of free play has a negative influence on children's development.
Why is free play important?
Free play helps children to develop physical and cognitive competences, decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Free play promotes children's creativity and imagination.
Free play helps children build self-confidence and self-control, teaches them how to interact and maintain peer relationships.
Risk taking especially in outdoor free play helps children test their physical limits, develop their perceptual motor capacity, and learn to avoid and adjust to dangerous environments and activities.
Free play is therefore an important aspect in children's development and the time of play is valuable and thus should not be over-scheduled or restricted only to structured types of play.
Suggested reading: Children's time to play: A literature review by J Gleave, 2009.