Structured Play Versus Free Play

A comparison of structured and free play, with valuable information about both.

Structured play, which is also called “guided play,” is generally geared toward preschoolers or those entering kindergarten. It consists of any game or activity that has a specific goal for a child to strive towards. This could be anything from motor skills (the coordination of muscles) to sensory skills, to things they will be learning in day care or preschool, such as the days of the week, or identifying their colors. Toys or activities that are used in structured play range from puzzles  to music classes to follow-the-leader type games like “Simon Says”. Many parents and educators are advocates for structured play, claiming it gives children a sense of direction and varied skills. But is it really the best option for children when it comes to play time?

A different perspective is free play. Free play is much more open ended than structured play. Activities like playing with building blocks, coloring or drawing, using make believe, or going to a park or playground are all examples of free play. While structured play tends to have games with sets of rules involved, free play is the opposite. Aficionados for free play argue it can be more creative and beneficial for kids.

While there is a place for both kinds of play in a child’s life, there are certainly room for pros and cons of each kind of play. Which type do you think will work best with your child?

Structured Play Pros

  • There’s much more organization in structured play than there is with free play. It’s also likely that the play will be overseen by an adult, giving children a safe and reliable place to play.
  • Structured play gives children many positive qualities to learn, such as self-discipline, listening skills, and resolve. It also gives kids a chance to learn skills that are important for preschool and school, such as social skills, taking turns, and working in a group.

Structured Play Cons

  • When every game or activity has boundaries or rules, there can be little room for creativity within kids. Furthermore, it guides children to stick to the activity that has been chosen for them, despite the fact that they may not be interested in it.

Free Play Pros

  • Creativity and freedom are key. Children can create an entire worlds and environments through free play with no rules or regulations. Because of this, they can conquer their fears, learn new talents, and gain confidence. Children can also initiate play on their own, and play alone or with another person or group.

Free Play Cons

  • There is less adult supervision, which can cause a pair or group of children to possibly become out of control, causing accidents or hurt feelings.
  • It tends to only focus on games and activities that children already enjoy, instead of branching out and discovering new educational skills.

For more information on how types of play affect children, or toys that can educate them while entertaining them, stop by Laser Peg’s website today.