The Free Play Experiment #PetitsFilousPlayFree

Earlier this month I partnered with Britmums and Petits Filous to help share the Free Play campaign to ensure it doesn’t become a thing of the past.

Play is an important part of child development – from physical development of their muscles and motor skills, to the development of cognitive and communication skills and social/emotional growth.

The key feature of free play is letting kids get bored sometimes and allowing them to find their own solutions – without reaching for the technology and the campaign hopes to encourage parents to embrace it as part of their child’s day.

Tree

I took the free play challenge with Isaac, Eliza and Sebastian and if I am honest, it wasn’t as easy as I first thought.

My plan was to take them out to the beach and the New Forest where they love to run amok, getting some lovely photo’s in the process. In reality, the weather has been truly dreadful, we have had to squeeze in Eliza’s birthday party and Sebby and I have been really poorly so we have been stuck at home.

That does not mean that we have failed though, as free play is just as easy to do at home, following these simple rules:

  • Turn off the TV
  • No technology
  • Let them use their imaginations
  • Don’t worry about the mess

The Results:

I often complain that my kids fight ALL the time. One says something that offends the other, they look at each other the wrong way……..anything can set them off.

The free play experiment proved that can and do actually get along, especially when there is a common goal.

Anita Cleare, Director of the Positive Parenting Project, told me that kids can often feel that they have to compete with each other and this is exacerbated if they have time limits set on activities, particularly technology.

By taking away technology, I took away the competitive edge and instead they had to work together, which in turn made then help each other towards achieving a common goal.

They have had epic Star Wars inspired battles….

Free Play

They have been making animal habitats for their toys out of cardboard boxes and making up stories with the characters.

free play

The previously out-of-favour imaginext is back out and they have been building huge towns and acting out adventures with the characters.

Imaginext

And then there is the drawing. Eliza loves art and has done for some time but Sebastian never really bothered. Now he loves to colour and tries hard to keep within the lines, enjoys drawing pictures and is busy practicing writing his letters and in particularly – his name!!

Sebastian

How to encourage free play at home

Anita Cleare (@thinking_parent) has the following advice:

Focus on providing basic play materials that can be used in lots of different ways – empty cardboard boxes, scraps of fabric, string, pipe cleaners etc, rather than shop bought toys that can be rather limiting. My three get really excited by boxed deliveries – not for what’s inside but for the box itself and the bubble wrap!

Box

Just give yourself a talking to when you find yourself feeling guilty! Repeat after me: “It is not my job to fill their every moment. A bit of boredom is good for them!”

Have tech free days. Technology makes them competitive: often the games have a competitive edge or sees them competing with people online. This can affect their mood and is why they get tetchy or bad tempered when asked to stop what they are doing. Limit tech to weekends and set time limits and see how their behaviour changes.

Children like routine and I actually found that taking technology away was not as painful as I thought it would be.

Nothing fuels free play at home or out quite like Petits Filous, which fits easily into a bag has calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones, and comes in tasty fruit flavours.

Petits Filous

Disclaimer: I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play. Petits Filous provides your child with the goodness of calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones. Furthermore, a recent Change4Life campaign launched by Public Health England recommends Petits Filous – with less than 100 calories per serving as a healthy snack for kids. Learn more about the nutritional benefits of Petits Filous at petitsfilous.co.uk

35 thoughts on “The Free Play Experiment #PetitsFilousPlayFree

  1. Jacinta says:

    I try very hard to get the children to turn off devices and play and sometimes make it a mandatory thing as free play is so important in my opinion. Thanks for taking part in the campaign. Commenting on behalf of myself and BritMums.

  2. Love the animal habitats out of cardboard boxes, we have really enjoyed this campaign. One of the benefits has definitely been seeing what everyone else got up to, I have a list of free play ideas as long as my arm now!

  3. Amy Treasure says:

    I really loved Anita’s tech-free advice, it’s something we have struggled with so it’s nice to see how well it worked for your children

  4. Laura says:

    I strangely also found my boys got on a lot better when we did this challenge – they fought less which was brilliant plus was so nice to see them get creative with their imaginations

    Laura x

  5. There’s nothing as fun as a cardboard box is there?! My two have been busy jumping on bubble wrap today from a delivery too 🙂

  6. Mine definitely play better when they have no technology and no parent hovering over them.

  7. Really interesting – I also did most of my free play for this challenge indoors, and I found it surprisingly easier than doing it outside. More for the kids to focus on! Lovely post – looks as though you had some good results.

  8. Aby Moore says:

    I love a bit of drawing free play, it’s surprising what they can do with a paper and pen. Fantastic challenge.

  9. At times I do feel guilty when my children say they are bored.

    This campaign is really valuable not only to highlight the importance of play but to reassure us as parents too.

    It’s made me realise I don’t need to step in, suggest or direct like I do and moving forward I will be much more aware of this.

    I love how they used the cardboard boxes with their animals!

  10. That’s really interesting about how the free play helped with them getting along better. That in itself is a good reason for me to try it at home with the girls

  11. What a brilliant campaign! we are trying to get the kids to switch off their electronics more and more and I am always pleased to see how well they can actually play when we do.

  12. I absolutely love this campaign. When I was a kid I wanted to be in the great outdoors, making dens with my friends. Now it just seems like kids want to sit on ipads all day! xxx

  13. Jenni says:

    It’s definitely important to have free play. I think we are becoming too obsessed with technology constantly being on event if it’s just in the background. Vital skills are learnt by being bored, using your imagination, exploring etc

  14. Tanya says:

    It’s sad to think that when we were younger all our time was filled with imaginative play, barely any technology and kids could play in the street without fear. I think this is a great campaign and I love all the things your kids came up to entertain themselves

  15. Dannii says:

    I think it’s so important to allow kids to have the time to let their imaginations run wild. It’s drfinitely what I want for my daughter.

  16. I let my kids free play everyday. No tablets or TV on at those times. It helps.

  17. I am a big fan of free play, I try and encourage it as much as possible. x

  18. This is a good way to encourage them to start thinking for themselves and planning on a routine that might actually work, only because they picked them. I’ll have to try this with my niece and nephew who seem very tech-dependent sometimes.

  19. I don’t mind hearing the words “I’m bored”. My son did it last weekend when I refused to turn the TV on before 3pm on Sunday. He moaned for a minute then went off to play in his room, happy as Larry. Free play is great for his imagination and creativity.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I love seeing how creative my kids are when they have to switch off their devices. It’s so inspiring 🙂

  21. kirsty says:

    Whilst it sounded slightly stressful to begin with and plans changed I think you had a successful free play! I love the fact they got creative and used their imaginations for towns for the animals.

  22. Emily Leary says:

    Glad to see they got on well during their free play time (which I’m a big fan of). The animal habitat they made is excellent!

  23. Kacie says:

    I’ve been trying to encourage my partner to ensure his kids get more free play time – they are glued to their tablets all the time!

  24. This is such a good idea, anything which minimizes their time with technology is great x

  25. Boxes are the best out house is full if boxes cardboard tubes sticks you name it

    Messy time is our favourite

    Have you used story cubes?

  26. Charli Bruce says:

    I’ve always encouraged free play in my daughter, I think its something that should be encouraged in all children x

  27. Melanie says:

    Free play is extremely important and good to genuinely let them explore on their own terms x

  28. Sonia Cave says:

    I am totally with you on this, and yesterday even my automatic reposts of old posts booted one out about unstructured play and it’s importance 🙂 It is a matter so close to my heart

  29. Kira says:

    We’re trying to limit screen time . If it’s cold , grab your gloves and scarf – that’s all I ever say to the girls , no excuses 🙂

  30. Alison Rost says:

    I love the idea of free play. It allows them to come together and it helps develop their imagination and creativity as well. Definitely something that I’d recommend to parents who have more than one child at home.

  31. Victoria says:

    It’s a shame that free play isn’t as natural anymore. Free play is definitely something that all children should be engaging in. Thanks for sharing this!

    Victoria | http://www.spokenreveries.co.uk

  32. Aww they did so many fun things and not a screen in sight! I love encouraging my daughter to free play 🙂

  33. Joanna says:

    The weather indeed was terrible especially at the end of last week. Luckily it’s better now, but it’s still very cold. It’s great that you have encourages your children to play indoors and that they found such beautiful ways to develop their creativity through arts and creating habitats for their toys.

  34. Jacqueline says:

    I can’t believe this has become so special but we are living in a time where children are attached to technology all day every day. I see it a lot. Doing things to engage your imagination and resource skills are so much better for children.

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