According to UN 

"Play is so important to optimal child development that it's been recognized by the United Nations as a basic right of every child" [source]

In my homeschool journey, I have found this to be true, with a mix of structured and unstructured activities play has been all we have engaged in my home and it's been 3 years and I don't regret it at all. I went through a bad patch at the end of 2020 dealing with loss and really trying to ensure my mental health didn't deteriorate, I had no energy for homeschooling so I let my son watch a lot of TV and free play and I first hand saw the benefits of free play. Before this, we only did unstructured play twice a week but seeing him engage in free play for about 3 months and I was convinced. 

What Experts Say 

In a special report on play, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlined a host of payoffs from free play, including that it:3

  1. Allows kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination and other strengths
  2. Encourages kids to interact with and explore the world around them
  3. Helps children adjust to school and enhance their learning readiness, learning behavior, and problem-solving skills
  4. Helps kids learn and practice self-regulation
  5. Helps kids build decision-making skills
  6. Teaches kids to work in groups so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
  7. Helps Build Life Skills
  8. Free play supports the physical development of children

Find below some of the benefits of free play that I found in my son; 

  • Focus: My son has an attention span of like 2-5 mins for structured play but when he started free playing he can be with his activity for hours. I was amazed at the difference and all that changed was that he made the decision himself of the activity he wanted to engage in. 
  • Creative thinking: I could see the display of his creative thinking in how he engaged in his play. 
  • Opportunity to display his knowledge: He had a chance to put on display all the things he's been taking in. He's never had this much opportunity to really put on display all that he's taken in. 
  • He was happier: While I still don't have the level of energy for his play all the time, I noticed how generally excited he was towards his activities and he probably wished I could continue to drive his police car behind him all day. 
  • Imaginative play on steroids: I mean on steroids. He would have a full-on script of each of his imaginative play that was just so amazing to watch sometimes. 

I also recently saw a post from an unschooling mum on Instagram about freedom in homeschooling;

"...Experiences will ignite their awareness, repeated exposures will highlight interested areas, and freedom will show where their true happiness lies.
This life of childhood isn’t about teaching little bits about everything there is to know all because it may be questioned on an exam paper at age 16 and 18. It’s about giving freedom of experience and then allowing time for the children to live out the main areas which fill their hearts with joy.
That’s where the Einsteins come from. Not just from revision and stress. Not from pressure and memorization. But from a genuine interest and passion, and the time and space to let that passion grow until it’s expertise.
It isn’t about who is the most clever or intelligent. It’s simply about being free to find happiness and to live in that happiness for a lifetime.

That is homeschool!" -

I am still looking forward to embracing so much more free play in our homeschool life, while I think through about how it would work I am greatly convienced of it's benefits and importance. 

Do you engage in free play in your homeschool? What has your experience been? 

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