The Importance of Free Play for Kids

Today most of the kids are bombarded with so many outcomes, from academic pressure, friendships, homework, chores, media, after-school classes, to private classes, ... and the list can go on. Our kids have ended up involved in so tight schedules that simplicity is so far from their reality and even worse from their future knowledge.

I would love to share the following article from Trine Jensen-Burke where she explains more why it is important for kids to have unstructured play:

"Unstructured play is vital for kids, so we need to stop entertaining them

When I was a child (in Norway in the mid-80s) play was not something that was scheduled into our days.

It was free and unplanned and spontaneous and, more often than not, something that took place outside. My 18-month younger sister and me – along with all our friends on the street – climbed trees and rode bikes and had snowball fights. We put up tents in the garden, had picnics behind my great grandfathers barn, fought, made up, invented new games and, really, just played like children in a non-tech-obsessed world.

These days, play has become a lot more structured. As parents, we organize play dates, fill timetables with activities and classes and even, in the spirit of helicopter parenting, tend to interfere when our children play with other children, breaking up disagreements, meddling – not letting them figure things out for themselves and moving on.

However, more and more experts are pointing out that free, unstructured play is extremely important to children. And that, as parents, we need to get better at facilitating it.

In fact, free play, play that is devoid of parental interruption and rules, is critically important for the development of children’s bodies and brains in so many ways:

1. It changes brain structure

Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play recently noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control centre responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children get to practice different activities during play and see what happens.

2. It activates the entire neocortex

Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different areas of the brain, and, in a study on rats, activated the outer part of the brains known as the neocortex, also known as the area used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

Previously, experts thought play, to animals, was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp’s study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: it teaches young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. In fact, he believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play often do better in school

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students, studies have found. In fact, research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child’s social skills in the third grade. Interestingly, Dr. Pellis noted that “countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less.”

5. It gets kids moving

In a world where we are all getting less and less physical activity, unstructured play often involves moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes by increasing the body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin."

Our kids need to develop a wisdom that they already have. Let's open a free path for them so they can experiment and experience in fullest. We're our children's guides and we're able to open for them a safe and clear path towards their own bright journey.

The light in me, recognizes the light in you,

Namaste - Cecilia de la Rocha

Cecilia de la Rocha is founder of Yoga By Cecilia de la Rocha, a creative and enthusiastic yoga instructor with professional training in hatha & anusara yoga. Always willing to share more with people in a different, loving & fun ways. Her teaching is an innovative fusion of yoga, metaphysics, mindfulness and shadow work that has taught many families, from moms to be, to kids, to adults of all ages and limitations, and to celebrities who want to incorporate yoga as part of their lifestyle. She loves to facilitate private and group workshops. For more information about her work, please visit:

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