As parents, it is easy to fall into the trap of wanting to keep children busy, often by signing them up for all sorts of sports and activities with the hope of finding their extracurricular niche early and curating it. Still, despite whatever benefits may exist for children who have swim lessons and 9:00 and then gymnastics at 10:30 and reading circle at the library at 2:00, it is incredibly important to also work some unstructured play into the child’s day.
There is a fear that exists in some parents that their child may be bored, or that simply playing around the house isn’t doing enough to hone their talents in structured activities, but the benefits of unstructured play are vast and important for child development. Some activities are great, but adding some unstructured play into a child’s day is even better. Here’s why:
#1 Increased Creativity and Imagination
The single most important benefit of unstructured play is that it encourages creativity. Children who are handed a daily schedule never have to work through their own boredom. In fact, there are many children today who do not even know how to be bored. Self-directed play gives kids the chance to tap into their creative sides, which is a survival skill they will need for the rest of their lives.
#2 Improved Dexterity and Motor Skills
In the colder months, children working with manipulatives like a wood block puzzle (even the types of puzzles that are part of our wooden name stools) are great for improving a child’s fine motor skills. When it’s warmer, giving children unstructured play time outside is great for their gross motor skills, as they can climb, jump, and run outdoors without any scheduled reason to do so.
#3 Encourages Social Skills
When children are given unstructured play time with other children, it helps them learn how to work in groups, how to share, how to negotiate, and how to resolve conflicts. All those soft skills that will be so important in school and work later in their lives are things they can learn when they’re young playing in the yard or with the toys they’ve got in the house.
#4 Boosts Physical Activity
Unstructured play is a great way for kids to build healthy, active bodies. In the warmer months especially, this type of play helps them increase physical activity at their own pace. Adding physical activity to all of the cognitive benefits makes it all the more clear why this type of play is so essential for their development.
Every kid should be given the opportunity to find something they like and pursue it, but they also should be given the opportunity to experience boredom and work their way through it. The wood puzzles, wooden letter blocks, and other great toys here at Hollow Woodworks give children some of these opportunities. If you find yourself in need of ways to get your own children more unstructured play, perhaps one of our toys could help them make the most of the benefits that comes with precisely that type of play.