Author Bio: Cristin Howard runs Smart Parent Advice, a site that provides parenting advice for moms and dads. Cristin writes about all of the different ups and downs of parenting, provides solutions to common challenges, and reviews products that parents need to purchase.
Free play is all about allowing your child to play on their own without instruction. It gives them an opportunity to discover things on their own without you directing or telling them how everything works.
There are plenty of benefits to free play that allow your child to explore and develop a lot of different skills that will better prepare them for the world as they grow.
Personal, Social, and Emotional Development
Free play allows your child to explore the world around them, leading to discoveries about the world around them and the society they live in. They create imaginative experiences that allow them to interact in a make believe society, teaching them how to get along with others.
They use role play to act out going to school, play house, shopping, or hospital visits. During these activities, they learn to discover and understand their own feelings. They may even develop an increased ability to express their emotions and communicate more clearly.
They’ll develop social skills like taking turns, sharing belongings, negotiation, and compromise. It may even help them overcome some of their fears by placing them in new environments in which they feel uncomfortable at first.
Cognitive Development and Problem Solving
If you let a child play on their own, they’ll begin to figure things out without help. Their brains are like sponges and they’re up for the challenge. It helps foster creativity and imagination, which are the driving forces behind finding unique solutions to new problems.
They’ll use their own thinking skills rather than relying on you, which gives them increased self confidence in their ability to do things on their own.
It’s important that during free play, you take a step back and allow your child to figure things out on their own, because believe it or not, this will equip them for the real world. It’s never too early to teach them life skills.
Enhances Understanding of Different Cultures and Language Skills
If your child is still working to grasp the English language (and what child isn’t?), then free play allows your child to learn from their peers. They’ll find their own way to communicate with one another as they play.
They’ll practice this interaction, even if, as an adult, you don’t understand it. It helps them to understand new words and meanings. They may even trade vocabulary for new situations. It also helps them learn the rules of conversation like when to speak and when to listen.
If your child interacts with their peers enough, they’ll begin to learn how other families interact. It’s a great way to experience different cultures and family lives that may be different from their own.
By fostering this understanding early, your child will learn acceptance and understanding. It may help them to develop empathy and make friends more easily later in life.
Supports Physical Development
Free play often includes interacting physically, whether it’s on the playground, in the backyard, or throughout the house. They use all parts of their body to engage their fine and gross motor skills.
While it’s a great form of exercise, it also teaches them how capable their body is. They can build strength and stamina while staying healthy. It prepares them for the physical demands of daycare, school, and much more.
Good physical health also promotes good mental health, so it’s something that your child would benefit from learning early, so they’ll be used to engaging their mind and their body in everything they do.
While there are plenty of benefits to constructive play, too, free play is just as important. Make sure your child gets plenty of free play time every day to assist in these developmental milestones.