Every child’s favourite time of the year is fast approaching – the holiday season!
While the school holidays are an ideal time for scheduling additional enrichment classes, your child will also benefit from having time to engage in free play. Before we begin, let’s explore the concept of free play – what is it, and why is it important for nurturing young minds?
What is Free Play?
Free play refers to unstructured and spontaneous play. It is completely voluntary and initiated by your child, and is a pure expression of your child’s joy of discovery, enthusiasm, playfulness and curiosity. Simply put, it’s playtime that happens when children play by themselves – without directions from the adults around them.
How Free Play Accelerates Your Child’s Development
Free play is an essential part of every child’s development, and should always be a part of your active child’s schedule.
#1 - Boosts your child’s creativity
Because free play is completely child-directed, their imagination has no boundaries during this time. Your child is able to express themselves freely, explore new ideas, make their own decisions and independently discover how and why things work. As a parent, your role is simple – sit back and appreciate your child’s imagination in action!
#2 - Promotes brain development and better social interactions
Scientific research1 shows that free play lights up your child’s prefrontal cortex, which is the part of their brain that is responsible for emotion regulation, reasoning and decision-making. What this also does, is develop the area of the brain that’s used in social interactions.
This can be invaluable, as social skills are developed more effectively through play and practice – and not planned lessons. And as social skills are essential at every stage of your child’s life, this is a great time to start encouraging free play. (Or at least, clearing up your child’s schedule, so they can initiate free play.)
#3 - Develops independence, self-confidence and resilience
Free from the rules and boundaries of structured play or exercises, children have the freedom to make decisions, take risks and think independently – which are the essential of free play.
Independent thinking will raise your child’s level of self-confidence, while risk-taking will inevitably result in both wins and fails. And fails are important, even at a young age, as children begin learning and improving from their mistakes – building the resiliency to keep going after small setbacks.
#4 - Sharpens cognitive development and problem-solving abilities
Free play encourages cognitive development in young minds – specifically, your child’s ability to think, understand, communicate, remember, imagine, and anticipate what could happen next.
At My First Skool, one example that we often see in our learning environments is children stacking two boxes – a big and small box – on top of one another. A child may start by placing the larger box on top of the smaller box, only to see it topple over. After some experimentation, they quickly learn how to balance the boxes, and realise that placing the larger box below, leads to better stability. This demonstrates an improvement in the child’s problem-solving abilities, as they find solutions to problems completely on their own during free play.
Free Play vs Guided Learning
While free play is an essential part of learning and should certainly be a part of your child’s daily routine, it’s best used to complement – not replace – structured and guided learning (i.e. classroom learning and structured indoor/outdoor activities).
Free play is also great for parents! It’s the perfect time for you to step back, observe and appreciate your child’s creativity – let your child’s imagination and playful nature take over, as they learn valuable skills while creating their own fun, stories and adventures.
Learning and playing at NTUC First Campus' My First Skool
At NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool, we believe that happy children are better learners – and this shapes everything we do. Our teachers build meaningful relationships with children, so every child is happily engaged in our quality curriculum.
My First Skool brings lessons to life through a pedagogical approach called PETAL© – Playing, Exploring, Thinking, and Applying Learning. We recreate everyday activities in our indoor and outdoor learning environments – engaging children physically and mentally, while developing their intellectual, social and psychomotor skills through play that’s fun and applicable in everyday life.
Let your child discover a world of joy and confidence at My First Skool. Registration is now open, enrol today!
1 Scientists say child's play helps build a better brain (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336361277/scientists-say-childs-play-helps-build-a-better-brain)