Saturday, 21 September 2013

child development - unstructured play

photo courtesy of Fiona loves photos



Unstructured play is more than just leaving your child to get on with it!  Anyone with children will tell you when a child is being quiet it is a sign that they are amusing themselves, while this usually means drawing on your favourite wallpaper with a pen or using their juice as a television cleaner it is actually a good thing.  


While your child is having fun with whatever they have found they are growing and stimulating emotions and responses that will prove valuable in later life.  Encouraging your child to choose how to play and with what is essentially helping their development, and in so many ways.  

In my previous post your 2 year old I went into detail about the five main areas of development in a child and what role they play.  Play is a vital element of learning and growing.

Physical development

There are two types of physical development fine and gross motor skills (or an easier way to think of it small and big!)  This is all the stuff that children love to do as it mainly involves noise, getting excercise and getting messy!  

some great activity ideas for gross motor skills are :



  • water play - tubs, mini watering cans, whatever is good to dunk/drown/fill up (bathtime isn't just for getting clean!)
  • riding bikes or scooters
  • going for a walk - ditch the pushchair for that walk to see the ducks
  • playing ball games - although they may not be able to yet,  encourage catching, throwin and kicking a ball
  • dancing - children love to dance and it is a great way to have fun with your children they don't care how silly you look!
  • be a monster/animal/fairy - let your child explore their imagination and do what a monster does!
  • create an obstacle course  - your child will love climbing over, under and through things
  • sand pit - add larger object to be pushed around and buried
  • bubble magic - play with bubbles in the garden and get them to catch as many as they can
  • games we used to play - "what's the time mr wolf?"  tag and other old favourites 
why not try some of the following for their development of fine motor skills:


  • stacking blocks and cups
  • sorting - buttons, all big things in a box etc
  • stringing - thread buttons onto wool, or pasta tubes onto string
  • drawing -a firm favourite in our house
  • play dough - let them squidge/chop/sretch it and build amazing monsters!
  • draw with chalk in the garden
  • re-filling - empty a large tub of toys and ask them to put it all away
  • getting dressed - fine tune those buttoning skills!

Intellectual/cognitive development

Through cognitive development our children are developing skills in attention, memory, speech, reasoning and problem solving, decision making, and changing their mind.  
  • can help your child control their emotions and behaviour
  • develop their language skills
  • realise they think differently to other people
  • teach them how to : take turns, live with dissapointment, show empathy and negotiate confilcts
Unstructred play is a good way for your childs imagination to run wild, some of the following will help build the skills above


  • playing outdoors
  • making, sticking and building
  • symbolic play - using their imagination with a box of dressing up clothes, digging in the garden or playing pretend houses
  • puzzles - they are great to get your little one's brain working
  • read books together - make up stories or ask your child to tell you the story from the pictures



Remember even though these activities are structured in the way you are providing what they need to play with, let them explore things and discover how they want to play.  They may not go in the direction you aniticipated but that's great ! 



Has your child's imagination started to emerge yet ? what are their favourite games top play ?




Emma x