“Children learn through doing – play is how they explore the world, learn to assess risk, try things out, and get to know themselves.” -Bethe Almeras, MS
What is free play? Free play is choice.Children playing with what they want, when they want, where they want and how they want. It is play without adult interaction and guidance. There are many benefits to this type of play.
- Free play allows students to be creative and develop unique ideas. They are creating knowledge of how things work.
- Children create a plan and execute while free play. For example, if they are playing with blocks. In their little minds, they develop a plan on how to stack those blocks and begin to implement that plan.
- Free play, develops their decision-making skills. How long will they play with this toy?
- Independence is encouraged as they play on their own.
- During free play, children practice and develop their social skills. They collaborate with others and begin to solve conflicts when they arise.
Some children are able to play freely without anyone else. My little one loves to play with her dolls on her own. She talks to them, feeds them and has them interact between themselves. On the other hand, my eldest, prefers to have someone playing with her all the time.
Guided play, is free play with adult intervention.A parent or teacher can ask questions while children play to help them make connections, expand their thinking, to reinforce vocabulary or to analyze a situation.
For example, if students are learning about farm animals. The teacher can place puzzles with farm animals to reinforce their names. What animal is that in your hand? What sound does it make? What color is it? Where does it live? What does it eat?
When children are at home we can also reinforce concepts. For example, playing with legos. Parents can ask: What color is that? Is it big or small? Can we put one on top of the other? How many legos are in your tower?
Outdoor Play is also very beneficial.Contact with nature provides sensory stimulation. The cold or warm air, the smooth grass, the rough bark of a tree.
When outdoors, children can play in emotionally exciting ways like riding a bike, climbing a tree, going down a slide. I remember not too long ago going to the park with my 3 year old. She wanted to play walk across some hanging disks. She was very hesitant to do it alone. She was assessing the risk of doing this activity on her own. After a few times of me helping her across, she asked to do it on her own. I encouraged her along and was at her side just in case she needed a little assistance. She was able to do it on her own and she was so proud of herself. In this activity, she was practicing balance, coordination as her hands and feet moved across the disks, patience and perseverance.
Active-outdoor play is critical in a child’s physical development as it helps develop coordination, gross & fine motor skills