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.
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
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….
They have been making animal habitats for their toys out of cardboard boxes and making up stories with the characters.
The previously out-of-favour imaginext is back out and they have been building huge towns and acting out adventures with the characters.
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!!
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!
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.
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