In this guide we’ll be covering:
- What unstructured play is
- Why it’s super important for your young one’s development
- 5 ideas for unstructured play sessions (with toys / items you already have or can easily find)
Spoiler alert: You’re going to love this one as we help you justify leaving your young one to their own devices, giving you time to do the dishes (or let’s be honest – mindlessly flicking through Tiktok).
What Is Unstructured Play?
Unstructured play is the opposite of structured play (duh!) where there is a defined objective of the play. With unstructured play, children engage in open-ended play without a specific objective.
Unstructured play is not instructor-led and doesn’t have a particular goal. Instead, the play and activities are child-led, often leading to play that is creative and improvised.
Unstructured play doesn’t necessarily mean a child plays alone. Play partners in the form of peers, siblings, and even parents (if they choose to) can take part in the play.
The primary difference is the intent. For example:
- Building a free-form city with blocks is unstructured play
- Following directions to put together a Lego kit is structured play
You can find further examples of what counts as structured and unstructured play here.
What’s The Benefit Of Unstructured Play?
Unstructured play is important for a child because it gives them a sense of freedom and control. It also allows them to learn about themselves, what they like and don’t like, and even make mistakes without feeling any pressure or failure.
Some key skills a kid gains through unstructured play include:
Ideas For Unstructured Play
And now the best part. Here are 5 ideas for giving your baby the joy and benefit of unstructured play:
- Give them a set of objects such as cars, dinosaurs or barbie dolls, and let them play with these (without giving instructions on what to do)
- Give them some crayons and paper and see what “designs” they create with these
- Let your young one build with a set of blocks or lego without a set target or goal
- Sit your baby in front of a baby-safe mirror. They will be fascinated by their own reflection and might even start making facial expressions or reaching out towards the “baby” they see.
- If possible, take your baby outside to a safe area where they can experience the sights, sounds, and textures of nature. They might watch leaves rustle, listen to birds, or feel a gentle breeze.
Want To Stay Ahead Of The Curve?
Take a look at our Grow with Me development toy boxes. Rather than worrying about their developmental progress after they’re born, leave that to us. We provide a monthly research-based sensory subscription for developing cognitive & motor skills through play in 0-24 month olds, leaving you to focus on spending quality time with your new family addition!