Go Play Outside Kids: Five Benefits of Unstructured Play

Scheduled recesses and extracurricular sport teams may give kids an opportunity to be with friends and exercise, but when do they have time to just play? The free, unstructured play time most parents enjoyed in their childhood is foreign to today’s generation. Between structured school days, technology access and parental protection, kids have little free time for unstructured play. Free play, however, keeps kids busy and teaches them five essential skills. Here are a few of the benefits of unstructured play.

Free play teaches kids to problem solve

Problem solving set kids apart as leaders. Creativity is the number one trait companies look for when hiring a CEO. Free, imaginative play produces leaders who can think for themselves and think outside of the box.

Think about a young girl’s imaginary tea party with stuffed animal guests. She must handle guests who exhibit poor table manners, eat too many cookies or spill the milk. As she directs her own play, she spends hours making decisions about consequences and navigating social etiquette. These problem-solving skills remain essential for her as a child and as an adult.

Unstructured play empowers kids

Most kids live under rules that tell them how, when and where to act. Free play gives kids the power to make decisions, save the world and determine their future.

Kid’s costumes are the perfect example of childhood empowerment. In a Batman suit, young boys conquer the bad guys and save the world. With help from their trusty cape, they run, jump and play in their imaginary yet powerful world. Parents who buy costumes for their children, and give them plenty of time for free play, empower their kids for years to come.

Kids learn to cooperate

Unstructured play means kids don’t have strict game rules or a coach directing their every action. They cooperate with each other in choosing the game and negotiating conflicts. Possible games that teach cooperation include: tag, kickball, softball and hide and seek.

Unstructured play improves school performance

Children who attend play-oriented preschool average an IQ of 105, compared to 85 for children who attend academic preschools. Unstructured play improves school performance. Play preschool programs also produce children with a more positive attitude toward school and less anxiety about testing.

Free play combats childhood obesity

As kids run, jump and play, they not only broaden their minds but exercise their bodies. For every hour a child plays sedentary video games, he or she should spend an hour outside playing.

Is Free Range Play Safe?

Despite the benefits of unstructured play outdoors, parents wonder if their kids will be safe. After all, riding bikes in the street can be dangerous. Perhaps more communities will follow Framingham, Marlborough and Hudson in Massachusetts. Here, the MetroWest Moves program plans new street construction that considers vehicle, pedestrian and bike traffic. Kids will be able to safely walk or ride their bikes outdoors.

While kids cannot avoid sedentary activities like reading or school, they can balance sedentary and physical activities. Regular recess in school and free time at home give kids time for outdoor play. When implementing unstructured playtime, parents remain the catalyst. The whole family can enjoy free play activities like hiking, running, tag and dress up. While playing, kids learn five essential skills that benefit them for life.

By Guest blogger:  William Urratia. William is a freelance writer and blogger in the fashion sector with a focus on ready-to-wear, affordable clothing for the average American. He still occasionally makes his own clothing, much to the dismay of his girlfriend.

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