Structured vs Unstructured Play

Play is pivotal to a child’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. Research has shown play to impact the structural design of the brain at childhood. Children’s play can take two different forms; structured and unstructured. Both are as important as each other in this developmental period. Therefore, striking the correct balance is essential.

What is structured play?

Structured play is adult led, whereby the adult will provide a purpose or aim. These aims will provide a direction for the child, this will be geared towards learning a new skill. Typically, a physical or cognitive skill. Structured play is used as an opportunity to introduce new ideas and games. Examples of structured play are board games, sports, puzzles, dance, learning a musical instrument etc.

Benefits of structured play

Structured play allows for adults to direct children to learning oriented environments. This will enrich their holistic development, as a broad range of skills can be learned. Skills such as fundamental movement skills, coordination, language skills, musical skills and more. Without structured play, these skills may never have been learnt or may have been learnt poorly. Therefore, structured play will provide children with the building blocks for future life. 

What is unstructured play?

Unstructured play is child led. Children are free to explore and experiment with different things. This does not always have an aim or purpose. Children will do things they enjoy and are free to make choices in this regard.

Benefits of unstructured play

Unstructured play will focus on developing social and emotional skills in children. It breeds creativity and decision making, as children will have ownership over the choices they make and what they do. It is an opportunity for children to encounter and solve problems on their own. As well as developing their independence and self-reliance. 

Is one better than the other?

Both are as important as each other for a child’s development. The skills learnt from both structured and unstructured play are vital now and in adult life. Placing children in environments whereby they can take part in both structured and unstructured play will allow for optimal developmental conditions. This will maximise their learning and provide a wide range of life long skills. However, never forget both structured and unstructured play must be fun, if a child does not enjoy what they are doing they will not want to participate and will not get the most out of the play.

Boom Sports aim to provide children with the best possible learning environments across all of our services. We aim to give children the opportunity to experience both structured and unstructured play, as research has shown this to be key. At both our holiday camps and wraparound schemes we schedule times for free play, alongside our structured sports coaching. We have found this to be extremely successful for not only child development, but also enjoyment.

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