THE POWER OF FREE PLAY
- May 2020 -
Free Play: unstructured and unplanned, it is play that 'just happens'. It draws on children's imagination and creativity, and it is vital for children's healthy physical and psychological development. Here, we share 5 'powers of free play' that are particularly helpful for children during times of crises, such as the current coronavirus pandemic.
"Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity"
1. Promotes understanding
During free play, children re-enact, repeat, test out, and process what they are seeing and hearing around them. Through role-play, children make sense of what is happening in their worlds and to the people in their lives.
2. Enables emotional expression
During a crisis, children may experience a whole array of complex emotions. Whilst this is normal and appropriate, for some children these emotions can feel heavy, confusing, even frightening. Free play offers them an opportunity to express and work through anger, fear, aggression (and so on) in a safe and contained way.
3. Boosts self-esteem
Change and transition, especially when it involves threat, can often leave children feeling disempowered and insecure. Free play gives children a much-needed sense of control and autonomy.
4. Promotes learning
Fear can 'shut down' the brain, in a 'fight, flight or freeze' response. Free play releases some of this stress, promoting calm, whilst also helping to build critical thinking, problem solving, analytical, and gross and fine motor skills.
5. Builds connections
Free play helps to develop a range of verbal and non-verbal communication skills, including expression, negotiation, understanding of personal space, and empathy. Joining children's in their free play also strengthens children's attachment with key people in their lives, which helps to provide a sense of security and emotional safety during difficult times.