It’s really healthy at all ages, and especially for toddlers and preschoolers who are newly figuring out the world around them.
Free and unstructured play is key to encouraging learning, promoting development, and invoking creativity.
Most preschools, daycares, and kindergartens in the United States follow a play-based approach. A play-based approach is described as allowing children to take the lead in their active play, rather than their play being adult-dictated.
As parents, caregivers, and teachers we want to allow our children the autonomy to play independently while asking questions about the activity the child is engaged in. This enables children to take control and gain independence.
Play-based learning allows the child to experiment with what will happen in certain situations with toys and then apply it to real-life.
For instance, when building blocks sharing the concepts of stabilization and support and how those concepts relate to real-life buildings.
Variety of Activities & Toys
As parents and caregivers, we sometimes feel the need to dictate all the activity and all the structure. Young children bounce from toy to toy and like a lot of variety in their play time. So while it’s good to give young kids options, it’s also beneficial to step back and let them do their thing.
This is why at Little Sprouts Play Cafe we rotate out the toys frequently. We add in new toys and hide some in our back room to come out again another day. Providing a variety of activities and toys is healthy, then we can let our kids use their imaginations with the toys.
Although, too many toys can cause an overwhelm and the child may not want to play with any of the toys. Finding balance here is important.
Varying both large-motor and small-motor skills in unstructured play is vital. Provide environments for children to run and jump and also other situations where children sit and engage in puzzles, blocks, trucks, and dolls.
Mindfulness and Play-Based Learning is Key
When we encourage our kids to be self-aware they thrive. Helping little ones navigate and figure out their emotional state and what they are feeling are essential life skills. Helping our kids to be mindful is vital. These emotional skills are promoted in play-based learning.
When toddlers and preschoolers are engaged in free, unstructured-play with other kids they naturally need to navigate the social structures of sharing, communicating, and manners. It’s natural that kids are going to get upset and will need to decipher their big emotions.
Encouraging imaginative play and taking an unstructured play-based approach can help children build life-long skills.