Free Play=Healthy Kids

How true it is: when we're relaxed and having fun our true colors shimmer and shine like silk in the wind. While you might think it's okay for adults not to play toooo much, children are another story.

Imaginative play is crucial for a child's development.
"The Serious Need for Play" is, well, serious about this fact.

In this Scientific American article, Melinda Wenner highlights a few points worth considering:

  • Free play is essential to healthy development of the whole child, i.e. mind, body and spirit
  • The less structure and rules, the better
  • Lack of play at a young age hinders healthy social development and promotes anxiety
  • Peer-to-peer communication is more sophisticated than child-to-adult communication
  • "Pretend" play bolsters brain development more than any other type

If you think about it, Wenner's findings make perfect sense. When we empower children to create their own games and scenerios, without forcing them to adhere to rules and structure, they learn and grow.

Every child has a right to play.

The United Nations High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a right every child should enjoy. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) supports this right, knowing how important play is to the overall well-being and growth of children.

The AAP notes that imaginative play doesn't just strengthen the child, though, it also strengthens the parent-child bond. A recent article published on the APP website, "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds,"highlights a healthy dose of benefits for kids who get to be kids. Some of these include:

  • Increased imagination and dexterity
  • Greater physical, cognitive and emotion strength
  • Healthy brain development
  • Interaction and engagement with the world

4 ways to fuel your child's imagination.

The nice thing about free play is that it's, well,  free.  No rules. No regulations. No stress. No setup. If you provide an environment to encourage free play it just might start to happen when you're not looking. Here are 4 easy ways to help your children grow:

  1. Create play spaces close to where you spend your time –take a corner of your kitchen and have a play corner there.
  2. Find special baskets to keep simple toys in—fold your silks in one, wood blocks in another, shells in a third. Keep the baskets handy for children to reach and enjoy regularly.
  3. Nurture your child’s power of imagination by telling them stories—children act out scenarios from the stories and of their own creation. This helps them to experience many aspects of life more deeply.
  4. Provide a daily rhythm to help children feel less anxious and give them space for play—the morning routine can include a “play time” along with story, walk, and house chores.

What about you? How do you encourage your children to use their imagination and play?

Update 2/5/2012 Our starscape is used in this Advil commercial on TV! The child is building a lovely fort!


Older Post Newer Post


2 comments


  • This post is my favourite. It is a great reminder that kids need to play more than they need structured lessons, scheduled museum outings, swimming lessons, dance lessons, piano lessons, soccer games, etc. etc. etc. I find myself struggling to gain balance between maintaining a schedule and just letting them go for it and play freely. Thanks for the much needed reminder. Time to go play:)

    Paula on

  • This post is my favorite! Sometimes I forget how much imaginative create play has inherent value. I try to rush onto other “activities”. But the play… the play is magical! Thank you!

    Pamela on

Leave a comment