Monday 26th of December, 2016
Parents often find it hard to strike a balance between structured and free play. In Singapore’s fast-paced modern environment, many lament the loss of unstructured playtime as children’s lives become ever more hectic, scheduled—and sometimes overscheduled—with activities from piano to gymnastics.
Most of these scheduled games fall under the category of structured play. Other examples are board games and cards games, plus sports like soccer and tennis. Structured play can help children develop self discipline and listening skills. Teacher-directed rules and structure can provide many special rights children with a sense of security and order. But structured play can also be rigid. It doesn’t allow for much freedom to be creative and may prevent children from developing alternative solutions to any issues they encounter.
For most children, free play is key in development. This encompasses painting, building forts or dens, running around in the garden and dramatic play where children act out different scenarios. It’s self-directed and fosters creativity and independence, encouraging children to set their own objectives. All children need to have time for free play as it allows them to relax and discover their own talents and interests. Free play is a democratic process as children need to come to an agreement about the rules before starting a self-directed game.
Free play (think of how you played masak-masak as a child) allows children to use their creativity and imagination to turn everything into something. Evaluating rules and using critical thinking to resolve disagreements in games are higher order thinking skills. It may not look like much at first glance, but as Loris Malaguzzi said, “Creativity becomes more visible when adults try to be more attentive to the cognitive processes of children than to the results they achieve in various fields of doing and understanding.” All it takes is looking a little closer at children’s games and interactions to see how much they learn from free play.