Could there be anything more natural for children than “playing free”? It’s an idea so many parents love. But it’s not always easy allowing children to “play free” – Where are the rules? Where’s the structure? How do you pry those blasted devices from their little fingers?
Playing free is rightly regarded as a cornerstone of child development — it encourages creativity, thinking and reasoning as well as independence. Petits Filous, the UK’s number 1 fromage frais for children, is championing this hands-off approach to children’s activities. In a sponsored project with BritMums, Petits Filous asked Bloggers to show how they embrace free play with their children.
Understanding Play Free
Playing free means allowing your children to take the lead in games and make-believe. Parents shouldn’t prompt, make suggestions or mumsplain anything. “The key feature of free play is letting kids get bored sometimes and allowing them to find their own solutions,” writes Kara of Chelseamamma.
In praise of boredom
Franca of A Moment with Franca has become something of a cheerleader for boredom: “Boredom is the precursor to creativity, innovation and specialisation. It is absolutely wonderful to let them be bored to encourage and benefit from free play!” For many of us, this is harder than it sounds. All our bloggers recognised that their children had over-scheduled lives … but also found it really difficult not to step in. “It’s not always easy to go through the pain threshold of my children’s whines that they’re bored,” admits Nell of Pigeon Pair and Me, a familiar sentiment for many of us.
Enjoy how they play
For others, there’s the challenge of remaining hands-off while staring in amused bewilderment at the apparent nonsense your child’s free play engenders. Laura of Five Little Doves admits to biting her tongue “when they are playing with the tractor in the toy kitchen”.
Bex from The Mummy Adventure found that a recent holiday during which “the TV spoke to us only in French… forced the children to play free even more than usual”. And you know what? The results are pretty impressive.
Sidestreet Style’s Laura writes that free play is “often the time [my children] interact and play with each other the best. [There’s] less arguing … I feel it’s because they are not being overstimulated by a screen”. That’s something that Amy of AmyTreasure.com can get behind: “Outdoor play and natural settings provide a sensory-rich environment for physical development and natural learning. Indoor pretend play fosters creativity, brain development and social skills,” she observes.
Don’t feel guilty
We often feel we have to stimulate our children to help them develop and learn. Those ever-present feelings of parental guilt and inadequacy that have “a big part to play”, admits Aby of You Baby Me Mummy.
The importance of switching off
The problem is that TV and electronics are so, well, convenient: They keep your child occupied with a minimum of mess and input. Clare of Mudpie Fridays remembers how her son used to love to play but “now chooses to turn to the TV and play on his tablet for entertainment”. It’s something that all of us can recognise. Nevertheless, Kate of Crafts on Sea was “super excited” to let her children be bored and figure out their own entertainment (to do this properly, hide the remote, switch off the wifi) and Quite Frankly She Said’s Sian knows that “children learn so much from simply playing” so it is worth the effort.
Kat of Creative Playhouse has come up with a really useful post about 5 things your kids can do in the woods.
Share your play free ideas
Tell us how you encourage free play and the fun and funny things your kids get up to when they’re letting their imaginations run wild — share using the hashtag #petitfilousplayfree!
Petits Filous provides children with both calcium and vitamin D, which is essential for strong and healthy bone development. Petits Filous provides 50% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D and a recent Change4Life campaign launched by Public Health England recommends Petits Filous as a healthy snack for kids.* You can learn more about the nutritional benefits of Petits Filous at petitsfilous.co.uk.
*On specific variants of the product
Disclosure: This project is part of a paid campaign with Petits Filous. All bloggers were compensated for taking part. Opinions are the bloggers’ own