The Free Play movement for child’s play is gaining momentum everywhere. It is exciting news! The number of groups on Facebook that defend free play is mushrooming.

Pinterest Group Board Directory also has several group boards relating to child’s play. More parents and educators are realizing the importance of free play for growth & development, and simply to bring fun back into the lives of children.

Both free play and guided play is important. What we really need is some kind of a happy balance between the two.

Howard Chudacoff’s recent research paper on the history of children’s play in the U.S. argues that for most of human history children “improvised their own play; they regulated their play; they made up their own rules.” But during the second half of the 20th century according to Chudacoff, play changed because of commercialization of toys, concern for safe environments, and focus on academic achievement. The digital age has also made a huge difference to how kids play,

“Unstructured [free] play is open-ended, fun and has endless possibilities . . . Unstructured play can happen indoors or outdoors. However, the outdoors may provide more opportunities.” To read more, see my blog post of April 2017.

The farmers’ market that takes place on Sundays in the summer at the Brickworks in Toronto has a dedicated area for kids who want to play. A big sign “FREE PLAY: Shuffleboard/sign out equipment from the Sipping Container stall,” says it all. A ping-pong table and some play props are scattered about. A cycling area for kids is also cordoned off.

Seen on a giant scribble pad at Kortright Centre for Conservation, near Toronto:

What Does Free Play Mean to You?

• Being a child and having a childhood
• Run around
• Free choice
• Adventure
• Getting dirty
• Most funniest cool vacation school
• Nature
• Risking
• Open-ended exploration
• Outdoor play
• Imagination and exploration
• Playing tag
• Walking where my feet take me, and then learning what my hands teach me through exploration
• Freedom to be/freedom/freely chosen
• Systems thinking
• Discovering/exploring
• Self-expression
• Child-directed
• Exploring and building
• Quote: “In the forest we are real.”
• Joy!
• A five-year-old running through our forest for the first time
• Happy
• Fun
• Wondering
• Investigating with my senses

Here are three easy ways to bring free play into your children’s life:

a) Set aside a chunk of time weekly for your kids.
b) Scatter some suitable props around the house.
c) Connect with block parents in your community to create a safe play area for kids in your neighbourhood.

Bring fun back into your child’s life, and your own with free play.

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