Unstructured Play: Encouraging Your Kid’s Imagination

parentingages and stages

Unstructured play is vital to children’s growth and learning. By simply releasing your kids to play on their own, you are not only able to get the cleaning done but it sparks mind reeling inventions in your child's mind that gets them thinking.

Letting them use their imagination with no limitation can open their eyes to the possibilities and opportunities the world has waiting for them. Use your own artistic vision to spark their creativity on a regular basis, but also be willing to let them explore and create on their own.

At the latest MomItForward Twitter #gno party sponsored by Shout, Tweeters shared what unique activities their children have come up with using their imaginations and how they get their kids involved in unstructured play.

8 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play

  • Start playing yourself! Children learn by example, if they see you using your creativity and thinking outside of the box, they are likely to follow. “When they see me doing something they jump right in,” said @Byrdy1999.
  • Send them to the great outdoors. “My son entertained himself for an hour walking on the fence the other day,” said @MomItForward. @reinaheather said, “I feel it is important to feel and learn from nature.” Be sure to encourage and support their outdoor play time as well. “I make sure to bring water, so they don’t stop for long when thirsty,” @abbebrown said.
  • Turn off the technology. @thatoddmom said, “If I keep the tech turned off, my kids will happily start unstructured play on their own.”
  • Inspire your kid’s creativity. Many of our Tweeters suggested arts and crafts as a medium for expressing themselves. @GeekDad248 suggested ceramic animals and cars, as well as finger painting. You can always use crayons and paper, too! “We like to mix the crayons to see what colors we can make,” said @gillzie40. Utilize the art of music and acting by letting your children invent games and create plays and music, suggested @reinaheather. “We make up stories to classical music. The stories explain what the music is trying to say. So fun!” said @billybadbird.
  • Let your kids be kids. “They need time to play and explore to learn,” said @mellanhead. Developing minds should investigate things as they are and come to their own conclusions. “It’s okay not to be running around from one activity to the next. Kids need time to explore and create,” said @KouponKat.
  • Play by your kid’s rules. As you get down on the floor to play with your kids, let their creativity run the game. “Life is give and take. You can’t always make the rules, it’s good practice for real life,” said @mummadear.
  • Get messy. Being a kid is all about getting dirty. “It’s not fun unless it’s messy,” said @fowler121600. “Messy play is awesome! Don’t love it on my carpet, but even then, playing is more important than carpet!” said @billybadbird.
  • Capture your kids at play. These special moments won’t last forever. Many of our Tweeters catch their children in the moment with video and picture. “I love watching how happy they are,” said @janewoj. “I always have a digital camera or my phone.”

Above all, let the imagination of your kids take them places. Let them be spontaneous and enjoy unstructured play. Feel confident about letting your kids be kids and don’t be afraid to let them get messy.

In support of unstructured play, Shout has teamed up with Olympic athlete and mom Jennie Finch to encourage families to enjoy playtime with the Unstructured Play photo contest on Facebook! Jennie and Shout want to see what your family can come up with. Visit the Shout Facebook page to explore, enter and vote for your favorites. To enter, all you have to do is submit a photo of your children creating a game with just with their imaginations, three objects and the permission to play. Once a photo is submitted, it will be re-entered to win each week. There is no need to resubmit, and fans can vote for their favorite photos every week Thursday through Sunday.

During the contest (June 4-July 1, 2012), each week five winners will be selected to win a prize pack including:

  • Shout Advanced Ultra Gel Brush
  • Shout Wipes
  • Shout Triple Acting Formula
  • Shout Color Catcher
  • $25 gift card
  • A vintage Shout t-shirt

Disclosure: I have partnered with Shout to bring you coverage of the Unstructured Play photo contest. Though I did receive compensation and product samples, the opinions I've expressed are honest and are entirely my own.

Feature image courtesy of Flickr.

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Cambria VandeMerwe

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