The Friday Five: 5 reasons for unstructured play


Written by Kara Fleck, Simple Kids editor and Rockin’ Granola mama.

While I am certainly a parent who uses planned activities and crafts as part of our regular weekly and daily rhythm, believing that they have value in a parent”s toolbox, I also value unstructured play.

I think it is good for our children, and for us, to walk on the wild side and throw out the rules and the organized crafts and curriculum on a regular basis and just play.  Kids need a healthy amount of unstructured play, even boredom.  From that time and space, creativity and imagination have room to bloom.

For this week”s Friday Five I”m sharing five quotes from some of my favorite authors on the subject of childhood and play.


5 Reasons for unstructured play


” … by allowing rather than controlling, we give children a sense of freedom and autonomy.  Their play is open-ended, the choices and decisions are theirs to make, and the discovery process includes self-discovery.  Quite simply: children”s play flourishes when we “let it” rather than “make it” happen.– Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne, M.Ed. (pg. 77)



“Just as it is important not to skip steps like crawling in physical development, it is important not to skip play, which allows for the development of a wide range of experiences, so that what is first grasped through action can later be learned anew through thought.  Thus when the adolescent studies the laws of levers and mechanics in physics, he will have had the experience of shifting further forward or back on the seesaw, depending on the size of his friend; or the study of trajectories will have had its foundation in throwing balls or skipping stones.”  – You Are Your Child”s First Teacher: Encouraging Your Child”s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. (pg. 172)


 “Nature teaches us how the world works.

Imagination teaches us how to dream.

Play teaches us how to make our dreams real.”

– Imagine Childhood: Exploring the World Through Nature, Imagination, and Play by Sarah Olmsted



“If we watch a young child at play, we can see that through her constant sensory/physical interaction with the environment, she gains experience and understanding of the situation, of herself, and the relationship between the two.  She comes to know herself, the world, and what flows between.– Heaven on Earth: a Handbook for Parents of Young Children by Sharifa Oppenheimer (pg. 70)


“Because play is so good for us, we needn”t feel guilty for doing it.  It isn”t a waste of time when we grown-ups do it, and it certainly isn”t a waste when children do it.  Play is a catalyst that makes us more productive and happier in everything we do.  And it is critical for our children”s brain development.” – Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, Christine Carter Ph.D. (pg. 141)


Books mentioned:

Let go and see what happens.  Play! It is good for them and it is good for us, too!

Speaking of play and families, have you visited the Awesomely Awake blog? Through today (Feb. 8th) you can get a copy of Shawn”s e-book for free.  I picked up my copy and am looking forward to digging in and being inspired!

About Kara

Kara Fleck is the editor of Simple Kids. She is a small town mama, writer, knitter, bookworm, and hooligan. Kara lives in Indiana with her husband Christopher and their four children Jillian, Max, Lucy, and Amelia. You can find more of her writing at

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  1. Wow, I love, love, love Simplicity Parenting but haven’t read any of the others. Adding those to my list. I do read Raising Happiness blog, though. Big fan of her work. We love unstructured play at our house. Just last night I had to pretend to be 25 different students in a pretend classroom for my two teacher-daughters. : )
    Shawn´s latest post: Create a Family Tech Hour

  2. I’m a big advocate of play and self exploration as the BEST way for children to learn.
    As a side benefit: allowing our children time for unstructured play gives me a chance to get something done around the house!
    This morning, we had a repairman working on the furnace. It required a good chunk of my attention. At first, I felt bad that I was missing out on the time with my son (I work most week days), but he quickly created his own “dinosaur zoo” and was happily engaged in wonderful expression and joy for over an hour.
    Alissa´s latest post: Where the time went

    • Alissa, there I times I feel badly too (I work from home, but I often feel “mommy guilt” saying that since I’m here we should “always” be doing some kind of activity or game together). I wrote this as a gentle reminder to myself, too :-)

      A dinosaur zoo? I love it!
      Kara´s latest post: Weekend links

  3. Oh a pile of good reads… thanks for the inspiration!!! I’m all for play, could never interrupt my kids who are hard at play for school… in fact the room where they play is called “the office” it’s where the rollicking-rolling work of childhood happens!!!
    se7en´s latest post: Se7en + 1 Thoughts on HomeSchooling High-Schoolers…

  4. Thanks for this quick summary of what is a very developed philosophy! I linked to your post on my Facebook page. :)

  5. Unstructured play is SO necessary to raising kids that can entertain themselves without the aid of any “screens,” like tv, video games, computers, whatever. Those things have their place, but there is nothing like giving kids free time to come up with their own ideas.
    Stephenie@livingbrilliant´s latest post: Feel the love

  6. Teresa Taylor says:

    What is the name of the super neat, colorful, half circle wooden things in the picture from the article “Friday 5: 5 reasons for unstructured play?” Where did you get them???


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