Unstructured for social skills


Unstructured play is now a very popular term for just leaving the kids alone to play. Well they are not actually alone as you are still keeping an eye on them; however you are not participating and helping with their play/downtime.  When I was young we were left to play without parents interfering, nearly all of the time.

My girls run around the backyard and have the best time; they invent games, songs, pretend that they are someone else and just have a have a ball. When did this stop being the norm? Why is it that we are seeing articles spruiking the positives of unstructured play?

Today on the Essential Kids website, there is an article “The chance to play without interference” by Andrew Daddo. I agree with Andrew here, that we are finding this so interesting, and as he rightly points out, “Play something you shouldn’t have to plan – play is just play.”

The other day I saw another  article on Essential Kids: “Put the fun back into child’s play” by Melinda Ham. This article details a study that Professor Anita Bundy, of the University of Sydney and a team of seven academics are conducting. The experiment was conducted in 12 primary Schools in the inner west of Sydney. The academics put recycled materials, bales of hay, tyres, and plastic tubing in the playground to see how the kids interacted with these items, how it influenced play and the children’s social world.

Through this experiment children learnt how to cooperate, ask for help, join in with others and be one of the team.  I would be very interested to see more of the results from this study.

Having the children play by themselves or with playmates in the backyard, park or friends house is not a new idea. I suppose we as parents think that we need to control, look after and make sure that there are toys and things to do… if there is not the kids might get bored.

I think that a little bit of unstructured play, or just plain old creative fun helps development.  I am sure that it has helped my girls, I have had chats with Annabelle, Tananda, Grandma, Grandad, Nana, Opa and that is just some of the people they were pretending to be, just this afternoon.  The amazing stories that are concocted in the backyard are just amazing.

What do you think about the new term unstructured play? Did you have unstructured play when you were little? Do you feel kids need more of this?  Do they have too much of teachers, parents and others telling them what to play and with? Send in your comments.

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