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Have you seen the benefits of unstructured play with your kids?

24 replies to this topic

#1 EBKatie

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:03 AM

Do your kids only play in organised sports? Or do they also spend time having open-ended, free play?

Such as "Playing with blocks, a Barbie, an action figure, a toy car or teddy ... Painting or drawing on a blank piece of paper, making something out of recycled rubbish, freely running, skipping, jumping, climbing, building and wrestling is all free play."

Or do they not have time for this kind of creative play?

#2 ComradeBob

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:11 AM

DD has loads of unstructured play. I think it's incredibly important.

Just last weekend, she was involved in a detailed game centred on her new boots, multiple packets of jelly, a couple of tins of baked beans and a lonely tin of salmon. She's also very happy playing families with the bottles of essence and food colouring (all tightly closed, might I add), her barbies and also getting out the craft box and drawing, making and colouring things.

#3 *mylittleprince*

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:11 AM

I know this is regarding kids age 5 - 8 years but DS is 2.6 years old and has at least 2 hours of unstructured play a day. We have at least 12 hours a day together while DH is at work and I don't think parents should have to entertain their children all day. We go out once or twice a day to park/library/shops/play centre/playdate which covers a few hours, then have some structured play (painting, craft, soccer, etc) and then DVD time (one a day) and unstructured play where DS can play which whatever he likes. He enjoys, is very imaginative and I'm always around if he wants to chat or show me something.

I'm expecting twins and suffering from all day sickness and DS has been brilliant at entertaining himself which has made life a bit easier.

#4 serenitylisten

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:12 AM

They have done or do both.

DD8 wants to play sport out of school, but she has told DH 'not until next year.'
I don't know why she has chosen next year, but that is just what she has chosen.
She loves playing anything and everything else.

#5 Isolabella

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:17 AM

The only formal activities my children do are Swimming (which is a life skill IMHO) and DS1 likes to play Auskick on Saturday mornings during winter.

Rest of the week is unstructured play.

I love laying in bed on Sunday mornings with DH listening to DS1 and DS2 play. It can be very enlightening at times.

#6 dolcengabbana

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:18 AM

My DS10 has played structured sport since he requested to join the team when he was 6 (basketball), also tennis lessons for 6 months, cooking classes 10 months, and now AFL, he still is in the basketball league.

He plays on his own with lego, building things, making water bombs, building a go kart, building an engine thing he got for christmas. He reads, draws colours, researches, down loads basketball how to videos from you tube to study. Everyone is amazed at how grown up he acts, at restaurants sports games he isn't a child to be running around he focuses on the games or the movie at the cinema. I think both the structured and unstructured play he actively participates in is unvaluable at least with my son.

#7 Le-a

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:22 AM

My 14mo DS sure doesn't have any free time. If he's not doing intensive golf/cricket/tennis/schools or his sushi chef apprenticeship, then I'm giving him a jump start on his schooling and shoving flash cards in his face.

I took away all his toys, too. They were distracting him from his studies.


Not really OP. Are there really parents that don't allow "free play"? Isn't "free play" the same thing as play?  
How can you stop a child from playing, do you have to break their little spirits first? To me, a child not having the time to explore and expand his/her imagination is an unbearably sad thought. I will go one step further and suggest it is close to child abuse.

I know I don't have a child in the age range of this forum yet, but when we get there (and now even), I will encourage my sons amazing imagination and do all I can to help him enjoy this most wonderful gift of childhood.

#8 paddyboo

Posted 26 March 2012 - 11:26 AM

Pat already has unstructured play at 18 months, I don;t know what he is playing but it is very funny to watch him putting voices on for each of his shoes wacko.gif

#9 cinnabubble

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:15 PM

We practice benign neglect. They have to amuse themselves.

#10 QueenIanthe

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:18 PM

Pretty constantly. Two of my boys go to a church thing on Thu afternoons and they all go to a church thing on Friday afternoons but it is all rancho relaxo here. The four younger kids had a ball on the weekend getting all the soft toys out and playing all kinds of games together.

#11 Lim Lam

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:21 PM

QUOTE (cinnabubble @ 26/03/2012, 07:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
We practice benign neglect. They have to amuse themselves.

roll2.gif  yyes.gif  yyes.gif

#12 barrington

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:31 PM

Is this a serious question?

Surely most school-aged children have unstructured play after school most days, either at after-school care or at home?  Even if its only for an hour or so.

#13 antsy

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:39 PM

I love unstructured play because it encourages creative thinking and kids learn how to amuse themselves. Tese qualities will be very useful when they are adults. My kids get a lot of time for this type of play and some of the stuff they come up with is amazing!

Though I must admit, my kids probably dont get enough structured activities. I hate being overscheduled so I havent encouraged them, and the kids are too young to know any better.

#14 Lokum

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:45 PM

QUOTE (cinnabubble @ 26/03/2012, 08:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
We practice benign neglect. They have to amuse themselves.

Yes! I just didn't know what to call it.

I also think it's quite important to have unstructured time outside, to explore the natural environment in an organic (so to speak) way. So if you go to the park, it doesn't have to be about kicking the ball or swinging/sliding. We're very luck to have a gorgeous playground surrounded by extensive parkland, about 5 houses away.

DS has just discovered 'the bush,' which is about 15 trees together with some scrub underneath. The way he goes 'exploring' in there with such excitement is a treat to observe (from a distance.)  We have bigger 'bush' for him to explore when he's taller than knee-high.

#15 my serenity

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:49 PM


each child has a choice of activity/sport winter summer sport doesnt happen as they are too busy riding bikes hanging with friends parks climbing trees etc, if they really wanted to do an activity summer thats ok but they are too busy having fun....
i dont believe in filling in days arvo with something every day i take their lead....
my kids are laid back happy and busy original.gif
my kids seem to deal with day to day stuff better than some  i know that have a schedule
ETA besides homework time etc.......we take each day as it comes baking cleaning games whatever

Edited by charlie cat, 26 March 2012 - 07:51 PM.

#16 annasue

Posted 26 March 2012 - 07:59 PM

QUOTE (cinnabubble @ 26/03/2012, 08:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
We practice benign neglect. They have to amuse themselves.

This is us  cool.gif


Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:29 AM

My kids spend most their time in the back yard, in the nud I might add...is that child neglegence?

#18 Guest_tigerdog_*

Posted 29 March 2012 - 11:42 AM

MIne also play their own games, DS1 is 3.5 and egnerally follows me around if on his own but with other kids he plays together well, usually with the most basic of things like cardboard boxes.  Yesterday it was a laundry basket being pulled along by a rope (an elaborate Fireman Sam game!).

#19 wabbitsw

Posted 02 April 2012 - 10:26 AM

I read Daddo's article today and had to laugh..with him of course. OMG why are we now calling play unstructured?? Too many parents reading parenting books and getting advice on the internet? This is what normal kids have been doing since day dot. Have we really become so attached to technology and helicopter parenting we can't leave our kids alone to freely 'play' without the guilt???!! And no, it's not neglect people. It's natural. I think they'd be something strange with seeing an adult crawling on all fours among tree houses and cubby houses and pretending to be one of the kids. Let them be. This is how social, cognitive, emotional development all occurs independently of adults needing to hold a kids hand all the time, intervening all the time or feel they need to timetable activities and 'extra curriculur'' stuff so Johnnie doesn't miss out on whatever. I know I sound scathing but my daughter attends a small school with mothers who have a lot of time on their hands that living vicariously through their children and developing a neurosis about their well being really gets me. And calling play outside as unstructured play would be extaclty what these fruitloops would label what children have been doing naturally since time began!!  rant.gif

Ha...that's off my chest....

#20 ~chiquita~

Posted 02 April 2012 - 10:32 AM

QUOTE (cinnabubble @ 26/03/2012, 08:15 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
We practice benign neglect. They have to amuse themselves.


#21 CherrySunday

Posted 02 April 2012 - 10:39 AM

It's what DD does while I sit on EB  wwhistle.gif
oh, and do housework, cook, go to the toilet alone, etc etc...

#22 steppy

Posted 02 April 2012 - 10:47 AM

I actually have seen quite a few kids who don't do unstructured play very much. They are either in front of the tv, the playstation or sitting next to mum while she talks to other adults and mum (or dad) has to do EVERYTHING with them. They can't play for 5 minutes without screaming MUM or DAD.  So I do understand the OP's question. I know way too many parents who found unstructured play just too difficult.

#23 happygurl06

Posted 02 April 2012 - 11:19 AM

DD has no structured activities outside of school/homework.

#24 Lokum

Posted 03 April 2012 - 09:02 PM

QUOTE (steppy @ 02/04/2012, 10:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I actually have seen quite a few kids who don't do unstructured play very much. ... So I do understand the OP's question. I know way too many parents who found unstructured play just too difficult.

Agreed. It's almost socially iffy to let your kid just wander about by himself in our area/MG. And I by wander about, I mean stray more than a metre or two from your mother.

DS fell off something the other day. (He was fine.) I know I got a whiff off 'well, if she will ignore him, it WILL happen,' from the other two mothers I was with. They of course were hovering beneath the play equipment ready to catch their little ones, while I gossiped in their ears.

As it turned out, another kid had pushed him. Life IS going to happen, and I can't be there with the safety net all his life.

That does seem to be the current action plan of his peers' mummies though.

#25 ShoshieRu

Posted 04 April 2012 - 11:34 AM

I like the description of benign neglect too biggrin.gif

My kids have lots of unstructured playtime. DS loves to dig in his 'sandpit' (read: an old vege patch full of mud). DD would be happiest if she was left alone for hours to jump on her trampoline, preferably with a hose running full bore (ahhhh, water restrictions!), wearing some weird get up which always seems to include gumboots.

DD is nearly 8 and collects everything - I mean EVERYTHING. Old sorbet containers. Kitchen paper rolls. Boxes, paper clips, old toothbrushes, which she then uses to make 'creations' which have no rhyme nor reason to my adult eye.

DS is nearly 3 and at the moment his constant refrain is 'play a me?' but I find if I sit down with him for 5 or 10 minutes, get him started, then he's happy as larry to continue on his own.

I justify all this from an article I read years ago which said that parents often 'ruin' children's games with our constant reality testing and lack of imagination. I certainly know that I can't get into the spirit of being a superhero with an airplane eye mask, rubber gloves and one of my bras as a hat. I try, but it fizzles pretty quickly.

I also notice that when the kids watch too much TV they are harder to get to play on their own.

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