Structured play vs free play

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Play is the main way that children learn. We’ve already discussed how important play is to the development of your child, but what are the differences between structured play and free play?

Structured play

Structured play is when play is planned beforehand by an adult. It is often used by teachers and nursery helpers when they want to tailor play to a specific learning goal. For example – magnetic boards and letters may be used in the development of language and literacy. This type of play would be guided by an adult, and would be structured around the particular developmental stage of the child.

Free play

This is when children are allowed to choose how they want to play. Play is unplanned and the children have a freedom of choice. This type of play is completely unstructured. Children will use their own experiences and skills to take charge of their own play time. The advantage of free play is that it promotes children’s independence and creativity. Adults may be involved, and even enrich the free play session by offering support and guidance, but they should be careful not to take over. The adult involved may just want to listen to the children, answer questions and offer suggestions.

Both free play and structured play are important in the development of any child. One is not considered to be more or less important than the other, and both kinds of play can involve adult supervision and involvement. Through structured play, a child can learn more specific developmental targets (social, emotional, intellectual or physical). With free play it is possible to guide the children to a particular learning target, but it is important to let the child choose their own way to play.

Here at Little Giggles we have a wide range of high-quality play equipment, and children are encouraged to be creative and guide their own play sessions under the supervision of experienced team members. We believe that these free play sessions are integral to the development of a well-rounded and confident individual, and we love to see their personalities grow as they explore and play.