For generations, children have enjoyed the open-ended or unstructured type of playtime that has no rules or instructions. However, today, with the advent of various schools of thought in child psychology, play has turned into an adult-directed, structured activity that is constantly testing the child.
Gumtree explains why unstructured play, also known as free play, is so important for children:
- Experts in neuroscience have concluded that unstructured play alters the structure of a child’s developing brain by enhancing the connections between neurons in the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is considered the decision-maker and executive control centre.
- It has also been proven that even as few as 30 minutes of free, unstructured play activates the neocortex that is responsible for higher functions such as spatial reasoning and language.
- Unstructured play among children builds social skills and enhances positive interactions between them.
- As there are no instructions, children are forced to use their creativity and imagination to build their own scenarios and games.
- Dr. Sergio Pellis, Ph.D. in neuroscience found that academic performance in countries that have a longer break/recess is higher than countries that had shorter ones. Thus, play, and especially unstructured play, make for better students.
- In today’s digital age, most parents are worried about the amount of time their children spend glued to an electronic screen. But with unstructured play, children are encouraged to move their bodies and expend energy through running, climbing or jumping.
- The physical aspect of unstructured play is extremely important as it can help children maintain a healthy weight and prevent the advent of Type 2 diabetes.