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The Importance of Free Play

Activities for Kids


Updated February 17, 2010

Free Play Time

Free Play Time

Alex Vlassov
The next time your child comes to the pediatrician it might be a good idea that she leaves with a prescription for some daily 'free play' time.

With all of the structured activities and the strictly scheduled lives that kids have these days, many kids are left without any real time to just play, which is considered a birthright by many experts.

So why is it so important to let kids play? According to the American Academy of Pediatric's Clinical Report on The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds, in addition to being important to healthy brain development, the benefits of play include:

  • allowing kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths
  • encouraging kids to interact with the world around them
  • helping kids conquer their fears and build their confidence
  • teaching kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
  • helping kids practice decision making skills
  • that it is fun
It is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child driven play. It is not the kind of play time that is totally controlled by adults and doesn't include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer, or TV.

Keep in mind that just because free play isn't controlled by adults doesn't mean that you shouldn't supervise your kids while they are playing, especially if they are playing outside.

Examples of Free Play

True free play is any kind of unstructured activity that encourages your child to use his imagination, such as playing with blocks and dolls. It wouldn't include playing with most electronic toys.

A group of kids playing soccer in the backyard together, versus only playing on a team with a coach, would be another good example of free play time. This type of active free play is also a good way to help your kids meet their daily physical activity requirements.

If you are simply running from lesson to lesson and your kids are overscheduled with activities, consider cutting back a little and adding in some free play.


American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report. The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds

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