From the moment Max was able to sit up I always activity encouraged free play. I didn’t actually realise ‘free play’ was something that professionals advocated! I have to admit a lot of my encouragement of free play was because I needed to get the wash on or cook dinner but there are times when I sit back and watch both Max and Emmie play and their imaginations are amazing. From playing doctors to a make-believe fire in one of Emma’s doll houses, I adore seeing how their imaginations take over.
If you’re not sure what the term free play means or why it matters, Friedrich Froebel, the ‘father’ of modern kindergarten states..
‘Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul’
Free play also helps children to:
- Explore new materials and work out how to use them
- Solve problems without help
- Improve flexible thinking
- Stay physically fit and strong
- Develop emotional balance and combat anxiety
- Learn social skills, including negotiation
- Boosts confidence whilst discovering their own special talents
- Take reasonable risks and challenge their fears safely
Petit Filous, futurologist Mark Stevenson and the children’s charity, The institute of Imagination, have put together a report ‘The Future of Imagination’ which documents all the benefits of free play. Play England, a charity campaigning for space and freedom for children to play says.
‘Children choosing what they want to do, how they want to do it, and when to stop and try some-thing else. Free play has no external goals set by adults’
I’ve really tried to encourage my children to put down their iPads etc in exchange for making dens out of cardboard boxes, picking up their toys and playing or even acting out a play. I find in the winter months it’s a lot easier to stick them both in front of the TV but actually they get more fulfilment from being silly, being messy and using their imaginations.
We were challenged by Petit Filous to put free play to the test using a cardboard box and empty petit filous pots. I asked Max and Emmie what they wanted to make using their box and pots and this is what they said. Max wanted to make a TV he could pop his head into and Emmie wanted a boat to sing ‘row row row your boat in’.
They quickly got stuck in and the excitement levels were high, it was lovely seeing them discuss what they were doing with each other and there was even a little bit of competition. I left them both to their own devices whilst I got tea going until it came to the cutting part which Max insisted he needed my help with.
A 2015 All-Parliamentary Committee report on play provision adds:
‘Play does not have to be expensive and need not necessitate financial outlay on the latest toy fads or expensive equipment. Many household items can be appropriated by children and incorporated into their play.’
..and I couldn’t agree more. The excitement over a cardboard box, the empty petit filous pots and a few pots of paint was like nothing I’ve seen before. My children adore arts and crafts and it’s a good way of getting them to play independently and it doesn’t cost the earth which is fab especially in the summer holidays!
Both Max and Emmie throughly enjoyed doing this activity and it is definitely something we will be doing again. Just listening to them bounce off each other discussing their ideas was so lovely. I have to say a 4-year-old and 2-year-old have incredible imaginations.
A big thank you to Petit Filous and Amazon for this fun activity! It just goes to show how much fun children can have without their toys and electrical devices!
What do you think of free play? Is this something you activity encourage with your children?