Why Free Play Is Important For Children

Gone are the days when young kids could wander off to the park with their friends. Now they are supervised at all times, rushing from school to ballet classes and from piano lessons to soccer practice. And when we don’t have anything on, often we put our kids in front of screens to keep them busy.

Yet, free play is the best type of play for young children and it’s important to make time for it. Free play is the kind of play that just happens naturally when children are left to themselves to decide what to do next. Here are some of the benefits of free play for children.

  • They develop their creativity. When they’re not told what to do, they naturally come up with new ways to create and keep themselves entertained.
  • They learn about themselves, their likes and dislikes. They also learn that it’s ok to follow their inklings and their curiosity.
  • They practice social interactions, which are very different in an unstructured environment than when they are in a class with a teacher.
  • They practice independent play and being ok in their own company.

You can be a part of your children’s free play, too, by letting them lead you to whatever they want to do. It’s a great opportunity to connect with them and get to know them on a deeper level.

I’ve observed all these benefits watching my own children. They are constantly coming up with new ideas, running, imagining they’re pirates, firemen, princesses, mums and dads, laughing and making a whole lot of mess (that’s just part of the process). Most of the time their games are very inclusive. There’s usually a role for their little sister, who gets to be the baby princess or the baby pirate, although sometimes they ask me to look after her while they make art.

Some parents may be concerned that, if left with nothing to do, children will just sit there and get bored. That may actually happen for a while when you’re transitioning from your child being constantly occupied to a more unstructured environment, but it’s temporary. For a brief period of time, when my son was around 3, he was watching too much TV while I was busy with his baby sister. Soon I noticed marked change in his behaviour. He’d be more irritable, go into tantrums easier and wouldn’t know what to do with himself if he wasn’t entertained. That’s when I turned the TV off and it was difficult for both of us to cope for about a week. Then he started reconnecting with his own resourcefulness again, coming up with games and returning to his own happy self.

Fast forward 4 years. My son and I were talking about play and I asked, “What if you don’t know what to play?” The answer was, “What?” He couldn’t even imagine that as a possibility. How could you possibly not know what to play?

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By Tatiana Apostolova

September 5, 2014

Nurturing Your Child’s Creativity

Children are born creative. They explore the world with curiosity, experiment, make up stories and incessantly create. But as we grow older, doubt and fear of making mistakes creep in and we increasingly stick to what we know instead of looking for new ways of seeing and doing. How can we help our children hold on to their creativity and let it flourish?

Make time for free play

We’re often afraid that our kids will get bored and we provide constant flow of activities to fill their days. And if we find that they have nothing to do, we put them in front of the TV! Yet, it is the unstructured time that challenges our kids to see different opportunities for play. They may pick up a pen and start drawing, observe what is going on around them or turn random household objects into fairy wands, spaceships and imaginary friends.

If your child complains that she’s bored, you can help her come up with activities or start a game, but encourage her to take responsibility for her own play. Hold yourself back from taking the lead and let her do what she wants to do.

Let your child be unique

You may have the urge to correct your child while she’s creating. Resist it and only offer help if your child asks for it. Also resist any parenting advice to set limits on your child’s creativity. A friend may believe that your child’s paintings should look like a person or a house and not like blobs of colour. Grandma may think that your child’s games are not educational enough. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. It’s your child’s expression and your child’s play. Be on her side and allow her to create from her heart.

Focus on the process, not the end result

Encourage your child to notice how much effort she’s putting into an activity and how much she’s enjoying it instead of praising what she has completed. It’ll make her feel that being creative is worthwhile even when the end result is disappointing.

Welcome mess

When it comes to children and creativity, mess is an inevitable outcome, but don’t let that stop you from allowing your child to create. Accept mess as a part of the process and an opportunity to teach your child to clean up afterwards.

Be a role model

Do you try to encourage your child to think differently while you shy away from anything outside your comfort zone? Do you praise her art while making excuses for your own (‘Oh, I’m just not good at drawing’)? This approach is not going to work. Let your child see you be creative and try new things. Only then they’ll perceive creativity as a good thing and something to strive towards.

Image by Henri1407 via

By Tatiana Apostolova

July 21, 2014