Free play

The Importance Of Free Play

In this article, we will explore the importance of free play, provide a few examples, and share some of the benefits linked to free play from early childhood. Play comes naturally to kids and play is automatically associated with childhood. But, some children are not getting sufficient free play time. Free time allows a child to use his imagination and to engage in physical activity, instead of being glued to a screen or being coached on a team. There are multiple advantages to this type of unstructured play.

Free play is vital for early development as it contributes to physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being in kids and youth. There are various factors that might lead to children not engaging in enough free play. More emphasis placed on academic preparation, not enough time spent in the outdoors, more electronic screen time, restricted access to outdoor play areas, and perceived risk of play areas, are all contributing factors.

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The Importance Of Free Play

Examples of Free Play

  • Painting
  • Gluing, cutting, and doing arts and crafts
  • Colouring
  • Drawing
  • Playing dress-up and make-believe
  • Swinging, running, climbing on equipment on the playground
  • Reading or looking at their favourite books (not part of study or homework)

14 Benefits Highlighting the Importance of Free Play

Boosting Self-esteem and Confidence

When children engage in free play, every part of their soul, mind, and body is involved. Through this kind of play they can naturally engage in independent learning and explore their physicality. During this process, they build their self-efficacy which in turn boost their self-esteem and confidence while having fun.

Teaching Them How to Recover After a Setback

Children may get frustrated when the last block they are placing topples their entire tower for example. Frustration or disappointment are necessary experiences that promote healthy brain development. It also teaches them to deal with disappointment and try again or come up with another solution.

Lessening Childhood Anxiety and Stress

Over protection and not being exposed to risk-taking exercises can actually elevate anxiety in a child all the way to adulthood. Since free play inherently increases a level of risk-taking with moderately low stakes, it presents an excellent opportunity to master these experiences. Another component of free play that could reduce stress is imaginary friends, particularly in boys that tend to have a lower level of anxiety and fear in later play sessions.

Kids on swings

Teaches Empathy

Via imaginary play, kids get engrossed in all kinds of situations, therefore taking on new roles and experiencing feelings that come with them. Free play with friends teaches kids vital skills like sharing, cooperation, helping one another and empathy.  

Creating Opportunities to Discover Life Passions and Interests

When children engage in free play it permits them to build their own interests and life passions in a way that is not possible with strictly structured play. Without the structure of pre-scheduled activities or lessons, kids will automatically experience and discover activities to overcome boredom. They might stumble upon hobbies or activities that they will enjoy for life.

Allowing Kids to Prepare For Adult Roles

Role play can give kids room to explore scenarios well above pre-school life and subsequently prepare them for adulthood. Whether they pretend to be astronauts, doctors, or firemen, this kind of sociodramatic play gives them the chance to experience more mature personas and everything that comes with such roles.

Teaching Them To Respect Others’ Viewpoints

Fantasy and role-play allows kids to step into someone else’s shoes. They get to explore the environment from various viewpoints and can even be introduced to other cultures and boundaries that are beyond their everyday experiences.

Boosting Cognitive Skills

Play is essential for developing cognitive dexterities. While more research is needed for definite results, contemporary research shows that play can boost neural structures, help kids to cope with complicated mental health problems, and assist in learning.

Improving Decision-Making Dexterities

When your kids engage in games they might look silly to you, they are in fact honing their capability to choose between different options. They can independently practice decision-making skills while playing which will subsequently boost their ability to make decisions.

Enhancing Creativity

In comparison to activities not initiated by kids, free play, specifically social-fantasy play can support creative imagination of kids. This can make boring tasks more fun and meaningful, and even give kids a sense of control and participation in their world.

Toddler doing puzzle

Promoting Problem-Solving Skills

Kids who play games and finish puzzles experience a boosted ability to solve problems. It can also develop social skills when they work together to solve a puzzle or find the solution to a difficult stage in a game to advance to the next level.

Encouraging Flexible and Free Thinking

With free play, all expectations, rules, and time frames are stripped away, encouraging children to figure out things for themselves. Free play can be solitary and quiet, or social and loud. Children who engage in creative play take full control over which games they are creating. They are free to choose their environment and manipulate it in characteristic ways.

Boosting Physical Health and Activity

When kids take part in physical activity, they develop strong bones, muscle strength, and healthier lung capacity, especially when they play outside. Playing in the outdoors is excellent to keep them moving and staying healthy.


Boosting Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Certain activities and types of play are excellent for getting little hands working. Arts and crafts and games like building blocks can help develop their fine motor skills and finger control. These skills are vital and necessary for handwriting skills. Research reveals that most toddlers and babies gain essential movement dexterities when engaging in free play that entails physical activity. This might also result in fewer bruise-inducing and bump accidents at a later stage. Kids that lack gross motor skills tend to shy away from engaging in physical activities later.


We hope you have found this post about the importance of free play insightful and that you will allow your children to engage in more free play. There are many benefits linked to unstructured play for healthy development.

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  1. Tshegofatso Washington

    As a boy mom , can totally relate and love this!
    My 14month loves to play and run around.

  2. This is so awesome! My son love colouring and painting and make believe and with all these great ideas he can play so much more games!

  3. Very interesting article. Will definitely be sharing this with my daughter who has a baby.

  4. Wonderful information that will most definitely be of use.

  5. A very insightful article, thank you.
    I believe a kid must Free Play, for they are curious and want to explore.
    However, adults must always assist where necessary for safety reasons.

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