Structured and Unstructured Play: The benefits of both

The concept of structured and unstructured play has always intrigued the play centre industry, and in addition, has riddled the industry with the question of which one is better than the other. The truth is, both structured and unstructured play equally present their own vitality for a child’s wellbeing.

Kylie-Jane Shannon, owner of Jungle Kids Indoor Play Centre and proud mother, discusses the importance of structured and unstructured play, and their key benefits for children’s development.

Before analysing the key benefits of both, it is important to contextualise and define structured and unstructured play. Structured play is synonymous with goal-oriented play and primarily utilises logic to systematically solve problems, whereas unstructured play, also known as free play, is both open-ended and highly creative. “For children to develop logical and creative thinking capacities, cultivate life long learning skills and enrich their development, both structured and unstructured play activities should be presented to children regularly,” says Kylie.

There are many examples of structured play. They include: following a particular set of rules to reach a particular goal; toy assembly instructions and directions when building a particular toy, playing board games and organised sports like soccer, netball and football among many others. In terms of unstructured play, examples include: drawing, colouring, painting (essentially art); inventing games and stories; and block-building among others.

The importance of structured and unstructured play is pivotal for introducing both purpose and curiosity-driven learning in a child’s developmental phases. “With structured play activities, children are learning how to best recognise patterns to meet pre-conceptualised and established goals as efficiently as possible. Unstructured play, on the other hand, teaches children how to become inventive, as well as explore the possibilities of what could be,” says Kylie.

Structured play has proven to be highly beneficial for children in active listening, problem-solving and reaching results-driven goals. Children can develop resilience, confidence, effective communication and team-building skills.

Unstructured play promotes important qualities such as empathy, imagination and creativity. Children are given a sense of freedom, control and creative abilities in a pressure-free environment. This can allow children to develop an ‘out-of-the box’ perspective in situations, as well as showcase their expressive self.

In terms of balance, it is of utmost importance to have both structured and unstructured play co-exist in a manner in which both elements are equally presented and effective. This can highly affect a child’s wellbeing and development within an educational/play centre environment. “Activities conceptualised thoroughly by play centre owners should equally channel and challenge both the logical and creative thinking skills in children, ” says Kylie.

There are ways in which unstructured play, for example, can lend its qualities to structured play and vice versa “Should children lose focus on a particular structured task, an unstructured activity can be utilised to help children refocus,” adds Kylie.

Many interchangeable and helpful ideas can include the following: themed play structures that foster creative and imaginative play to achieve a pre-established learning goal, decision-making tasks, and the task of delegating as a means of structured play to complete a creative task in unstructured play. These are just a few ways in which the elements of both structured and unstructured play are both ideal and important in children’s play and learning development.

Jungle Kids Indoor Play Centre has dedicated its expertise and delight to serving families within the town of Wallan, Victoria.

Check out their full range of services and current featured promotions at Visit their Facebook page to view all their activities and special offerings. Jungle Kids Indoor Play Centre is open seven (7) days a week and is open until 5:00pm on weekdays during the school holidays.

As part of their Play-all-day Single Admission, adults and babies attend free of charge. 12 months to 3 years old attend at $8.50 and 4 years old to 12 years old attend at $10.00.

Jungle Kids Indoor Play Centre is situated at 2B Commercial Drive Wallan, Victoria and can be contacted on: (03) 5783 4104.

Written and syndicated by YDMA News.

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