Modern science is now backing up what conscious educators have known for centuries: that children need to play.

To be more precise, they need plenty of free play. This is the sort of unstructured, self-directed play that occurs when children choose for themselves how to do it.

Free play is very different from structured learning activities or passive entertainment and is essential to whole-child development. And that’s according to the experts, not just parents who have grown tired of their children staring at screens!

43 Profound Benefits of Free Play

To help educators to advocate for more free play for their children, WeTheParents has put together a visual resource highlighting  43 evidence-based benefits of self-directed playtime.

43 Ways our Kids Thrive on Free Play

The How-Tos of Free Play

At the end of the day, free play can be anything under the sun; stacking blocks, stomping leaves, pretending to be a dog, or making a blanket fort.

Okay, you might be thinking, but my kids are in middle school; they’re not going to put down their phones to pretend to be golden retrievers. Don’t worry; free play knows no age! Naturally,  play evolves as children grow. However, there are some features that can be promoted to ensure that quality play takes place.

Essential elements of meaningful play:

  1. Children make their own decisions
  2. Play is intrinsically motivated
  3. Children become immersed in it
  4. It is spontaneous and not overly organized or rule-based
  5. Play is fun

Encouraging and making space for these will bring huge rewards to children and their families and caregivers.