Free play is when a child is given the opportunity to use the skills they have learnt (age-appropriate developmental milestones they have mastered) to explore and discover what they can do own their own.
They choose what to do, what to play with, create, make, invent, problem solve while learning more about their environment and develop an understanding of the world around them.
All children are curious, inquisitive and want to find out how things work and want to be actively involved in their own learning and development. They learn best when activities are fun, within their abilities and also challenge them
Benefits of Free Play
Children need the freedom and opportunity to:
- Initiate their own play to exploring, discover and create which is important as it develops their curiosity and interests in people, things and the world around them.
Children need caring and engaged adults who allow them to ‘struggle’ on their own then guide and teach them and then giving them the freedom to try again.
Examples of Free Play
Drawing, coloring, painting, cutting, and gluing with art supplies | Playing make-believe and dress-up | Playing on playground equipment, climbing, swinging, running around | Reading and looking at books
Strong physical core muscles and wiring of the brain
To create and carry out ideas and actions.
Learns how to make decisions
I can do this on my own.
Child learning how to play and collaborate with others
- sensory and tactile awareness: touch, move and balance, smell, taste, hear and see
- perceptual skills what is the same and different
- develops nerve connections in the brain that helps to complete more complex learning skills and tasks
- role playing – pretending to be a mommy/daddy
- imagining a stick is a wand or a brick is a car
- this requires planning, high level thinking and language
- working through their feelings and thoughts
How do we create free choice play opportunities?
Our role as the adults is to create a safe environment that appeals to children’s curiosity, and resources that will enhance that child’s own interests and development.
The following are some important considerations to help you create an environment that encourages free choice play.
o Sufficient space for children to move about safely and freely and are always visible
o Well ventilated room
o Safe environment where children feel safe and secure
o Clean area that is free from dirt, litter, rubbish and any foreign or harmful substances
o Plug points are covered and no loose electrical wires
o No accessibility to toilets and buckets are sealed if bucket system used
o No broken furniture, windows and loose carpets where children can hurt themselves
o Table clothes that children can pull on
o Doors and gates to street are securely locked
o All dangerous, sharp items are safely out of reach
o All cleaning material is sealed and safely locked away
o Pools, taps and drains securely covered and sealed
o Animals that could harm or hurt a child are in a secure area away from the children
It is of utmost importance that all the play areas are visible so you can observe children at all times to intervene when required and manage any inappropriate behaviour.