The Importance of Unstructured Play in Child Development*

*This is a collaborative post*


Children are hard-wired to learn from birth. It’s a full-time job for them and this is why babies and toddlers go through so many developmental changes so quickly. They are constantly on the lookout for learning opportunities – whether it’s licking things they shouldn’t, pulling things apart or experimenting with their voice, almost all of their behaviours are based in their efforts to learn more.


Structured and unstructured play – a fine balance


Whilst it’s of course vital for parents to interact with and play with their children on a daily basis, it’s also equally important to allow them time for unstructured play.

This can begin as soon as they are old enough to enjoy and interact with toys. For tiny babies too young to hold a toy, it could be something as simple as allowing them time to lie on a play mat, have a good kick and look at a mobile hanging above them.


For babies who can sit up unaided, unstructured play includes allowing them to sit within reach of various toys and safe objects and allowing them to explore the things in their own time and unaided by you.


As your child grows and becomes mobile, they will naturally seek out unstructured play opportunities. This seeking out independent play includes the exploration of their environment, whether that’s the home, the local park or the shopping centre.


Allowing your toddler to safely explore their environment is part of unstructured play and should be encouraged – in a safe way of course. During unstructured play, your child will be learning all about texture, sound, cause and effect, colour and many more important facts.


Nursery and unstructured play


Once your child begins to attend nursery, they will encounter more opportunities for unstructured play. At this day nursery in London, children are provided with a wide range of learning opportunities and unstructured play is an important part of each day. Children play freely alone or with their peers in a safe, stimulating environment.

*Photo via Pexels

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