All mammals play. Young deer play games of chase and gleefully pretend to fight. Bear cubs love to wrestle and tumble. Anyone who’s ever watched a pack of six puppies can never doubt their delight in play. Humans are just like other animals. Play is not only entertainment, enjoyment, and positive socialization. It is an essential part of not only who we are, but whom we will become.
Free play is the roadmap between now and forever after.
Free play is the freedom to believe anything
The essence of play is personal autonomy enforced with the power of agency. In play, we are the commanders of our destiny and the architects of our souls. In building strong inner lives, children use play to try on different personas. Would it be fun to be a fireman, an astronaut, perhaps a forest ranger? Kids at free play dress up, adopt different voices, swagger bravely or hide in the shadows to leap upon a villain.
Can children do this essential work of maturation playing a video game, sitting in a classroom, or playing soccer? These are educational, healthy in aspects, and may make a child happy. These activities are worthwhile and teach a child much of what they’ll need in life. There is one thing that these structured activities, even those defined as play, cannot offer — the opportunity to fly. Free play takes off the brakes, pushes the limits, ignores rules and expectations.
A good work/life balance prevents a lop-sided life
Not only adults in a fast-paced work environment but even their children in school need to wind down, step away, and play. Whether it’s a game of pretend with imaginative costumes, hide-and-seek in the great outdoors, or just make-believe story time, adults and children alike can indulge in free play every day. Learning multiplication or preparing quarterly reports may be necessary, but a daughter saving her siblings from the dad and mom monsters scratches a psychic itch that no work ever will.
Encouraging and protecting free play
In a go-go family with a full activity calendar on the refrigerator might need to schedule times for nothing, hours for free play and nothing but free play. Can’t find the time? How about turning mealtime into story time? Each meal finds another family member making up a story. Turn a trip to the market into a game where everyone looks for the most items with pink on the packaging. Imagination unleashed on the possibilities of free play can turn a mundane activity into a permanent memory of joy.
Learn more about the importance of free play at We The Parents.