Free play or independent play is something I have tried to encourage in both of my children since they were toddler’s, I love to see what they do when their imagination is involved and often Amelie comes up with amazing ideas for things that I don’t think even I could have created!
When Petits Filous got in touch with me about a campaign they were running with Amazon to encourage free play I was really interested to find out more as it’s something I actively try to read about and am trying to encourage more with Evie as she approaches two.
Petits Filous believe a little less structure and a lot more play is crucial for helping kids learn more about the world, and themselves, and so, this summer they are encouraging us to get our little ones involved in more free play.
They have collaborated with Amazon Pantry to inspire children to recycle their boxes and use their imagination to turn them and empty yogurt pots into something new and fun.
But what is free play?
When Amelie was a baby if you’d asked me what free play was I wouldn’t have been able to answer. It was something Amelie’s childminder first introduced to me when she was just over one and honestly at first I thought it was a little mean to not play with them, however on researching I realised by not letting them engage in free play I wasn’t giving her the chance to use her imagination or express herself.
‘Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.’ Friedrich Froebel, the ‘father’ of modern kindergarten
Free play very simply is all about imagination.
Petits Filous, together with futurologist Mark Stevenson and children’s charity, The Institute of Imagination, have released a report ‘The Future of Imagination’ about the benefits of free play. The report talks about the benefits and barriers of free play and what it means for our future generations.
In the report Play England, a charity campaigning for space and freedom for children to play, described free play as: ‘Children choosing what they want to do, how they want to do it and when to stop and try something else. Free play has no external goals set by adults.’
We can be involved, for example, setting up the activity (in the case of what Amelie and I did for this blog post giving her a cardboard box and some yogurt pots and asking her to think about what she could make) but not getting directly involved so they can choose what they want to do.
Free play can help children to explore new materials, solve problems, improve their thinking, develop emotional balance, learn social skills and boost their confidence.
Amelie’s fairy box
We were challenged by Petits Filous to put free play into practice and use cardboard boxes and yogurt pots to create something.
I gave Amelie two cardboard boxes and six Petits Filous yogurt pots and asked her what she’d like to create…
She immediately said a fairy dress and wings. With that, I asked her to get started on making them into a fairy.
I helped with some of the cutting but the development of her ‘outfit’ was imagined by Amelie. She ran to her art table and grabbed purple paint, colouring pens and pencils and some purple and gold foil. I then sat back and watched as she worked on bringing her fairy box to life.
I loved seeing her think about her idea and then get everything she needed and it didn’t need anything we didn’t have in the house already. A 2015 All-Parliamentary Committee report on play provision said, ‘Play does not have to be expensive and need not necessitate financial outlay on the latest toy fads or expensive equipment. Many household items can be appropriated by children and incorporated into their play.’
And this is why I thought the Petits Filous and Amazon campaign was so great, all we needed was a cardboard box (every house has these) and a few yogurt pots and Amelie’s imagination went wild!
It was lovely to hear her say things as she made it like ‘Mummy I can’t wait to show Daddy my fairy outfit’, ‘Mummy, I’m going to fly into the sky with these wings’. It was amazing what she imagined with just a cardboard box and some yogurt pots!
After about half an hour of creating her fairy outfit, Amelie was done and it was out into the garden to play fairies.
Amelie loved this activity and it was so easy and cheap to do so I know what we’ll be doing more of this Summer.
Will you be encouraging more free play this summer?