Child’s play

As the current school curriculum involves children to be more active, out door forest schools aswell as indoor activities and after school clubs available 7 days a week we see children living lives as busy if not busier than an adults. It is becoming unclear at what point children become over scheduled to their developmental detriment or I’d emotional stress develops.

Free play is when a child is given or can chose for themselves what they are next going to play with, there is no adult interaction and the child can be left to explore their own world around them but still with adult supervision.  Structured or scheduled play is more interactive with adults where the adults chose and guide the child play.  The child is instucted and guided with new ideas, socila skills and more.

Research suggests that Child’s free play is seen to have more benefits than scheduled and structured activities.  Providing a child with free play means that the child can explore important social, emotional and intellectual milestones.

By children living busy lives of extra curriculum activities, and having to many structured activities at a younger age can cause early stress, anxiety and in rare situations depression.  A key benefit of free play is that during free play the child has a mental workout and forms executive control which is the ability to think twice, make quick and conscious decisions and think for their selves. As well as the basics of imagination, role play and creativity.

Research is rapidly influencing the schools systems of encouraging some structured and scheduled activities but much more free play, heuristic play and sensory play included in the free play so that the child can develop through exploring their own world rather than being forced into it.

However a benefit of structured play is that the child can have more experiences and will learn more new skills and the world around them can become bigger with the adult and the structure.

In the light of things having a balance of both structured and free play the child will benefit the most, by learning all sorts of skills, abilities and social benefits. the child can gain the best start in life.





7 thoughts on “Child’s play

  1. psuf2c says:

    I don’t think you can say that a child’s life is busier than an adult’s life. Adults have greatly more responsibility than children. A child’s day is made up of eating, playing with friends and school (5 days a week). Adults have to take care of their child and themselves in the morning, work all day and then continue the home responsibilities whilst looking after a child in the afternoon and evening. A child may do more things in one day (e.g. play with a hundred different toys) but this is not a stressful thing to do. Adults may do much less (e.g. complete a report at work then go home to take care of the house) but the adults undergo much more stress than children.

    Structure and routine in a child’s life is important. Free play is definitely beneficial but structure is possibility more important. Without structure children would not have a set routine. They would not have a certain bed time, dinner time, lunch time, play time etc which make their life easier. During free play children are of course free. They can do what they wish, but to some extent it is not actually free. (For example, if a child wants to play with a toy that another child is playing with they cannot and they cannot just walk off go to wherever they wish). They are limited by socially acceptable behaviour. If free play was truly free then they would not be learning these socially acceptable behaviours. As I have mentioned, structure is important. Children learn from their structure and this structure makes their (and their parents’ life) much easier and calmer.

    Free play is needed, without it children do not have time to be children. But you free play mixed in with the routine allows parents to get the best from their child.

  2. psuf2c says:

    In the last paragraph I meant: “But the free play…”

  3. bpmjb says:

    From a physical fitness perspective, increasing levels of obesity and incidences of diabetes, observed in both the UK and US have provided the rational for encouraging children’s play and physical activity (Hill, King and Armstrong, 2007). Furthermore it has been suggested that among primary school children unstructured activity that occurs outdoors may be the biggest contributor to a child’s physical wellbeing and fitness (Bailey, Olson, Pepper, Barstow and Copper, 1994). However Russell, McIver, Marsha, Brown and Addy (2008) uncovered that children in preschool and structured school programmes were mostly physically inactive throughout the day. In that they did not engage in either free play or structured play. One challenging aspect of this investigation was deriving a valid instrument to measure children’s physical activity in these settings. This was because any physical activity demonstrated was usually performed in short spurts. Nonetheless this barrier was overcome by employing a direct observation technique that enabled the short spurts of activity to be measured whilst maintaining minimal participant reactivity. The findings of this study had important implications whereby the researchers suggested that children are not engaging in as much physical activity and play whilst at school. The researchers thus suggested that an area for future research could focus on characteristics of the school that make it difficult for children to engage in play and physical activity. These included space constraints and lack of scheduled time for engagement in unstructured activity. This therefore supports your idea that research is influencing schools systems regarding the benefits that can be reaped from engaging in both physical activity and play.


    Bailey, R., Olson, J., Pepper, J., Barstow, T., & Cooper, D. (1994). The level and tempo of children’s physical activities: an observational study. Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise, 95, 1033-1041.

    Hill, A., King, N., & Armstrong, T. (2007). The Contribution of Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviors to the Growth and Development of Children and Adolescents: Implications for Overweight and Obesity. Sport Medicine, 36, 533-545.

    Russell, R., McIver, K., Marsha, D., Brown, W., & Addy, C. (2008). Directly observed physical activity levels in preschool children. Journal of School Health, 78, 438-444. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7561.2008.00327.x

  4. bngpsych says:

    A child’s play is important in their development. Through playing children are able to develop important social skills, develop physically and broaden their understanding of the world (Hayes, 2010). Free interactive play is important in their development as it allows the child to learn social roles and broaden their understanding of the social world. Lowe (1975) argued that children’s choice in which toy to play with becomes more sophisticated as they get older (as cited by, Mcwilliams & Siegel, 2001). Corrine Hutt (1970) highly linked mental and emotional development to a child’s curiosity of a toy, which enables them to explore the world (as cited in Hutt & Hutt, 1970). A child’s curiosity is also seen in their imagination, and often imaginary friends. While parents are worried about the prospect of imaginary friends, psychological research has understood that there is no harm in imaginary friends (Hayes, 2010). Rather, that it can often help a child develop better. Free play allows children to develop freely and develop a social understanding of the world through their role play characters.

    During free play Vygotsky (1962) noted that children play with words, which is known as egocentric speech. Egocentric speech is the child thinking aloud and using their speech to understand their thoughts. It is only later that children learn to develop how to attain their thoughts in their heads. This form of speech is used during a child’s play, where they then learn to develop thoughts in their head (McWilliams, & Siegel, 2001).

    Cohen (1987) observed his 2 children and noted that they would imitate their different favourite games with different family members (as cited by, Kasen, Cohen, Brook & Hartmark, 2002). Cohen understood that children will interact differently to different family members and friends.

    Free play is important in child development as children learn to interact and develop independently however, structured play is equally as important as they need an understanding of what is correct and incorrect.


    Hayes, N. (2010). Applied Psychology. London, UK: Hodder Headline.

    Hutt, C., & Hutt, S. J. (1970). Direct observation and measurement of behaviour. Child Psychology. 200-209.

    Kasen, S., Cohen, P., Brook, J. S., Hartmark, C. (2002) A multiple risk interaction model: Effects of temperament and divorce on psychiatric disorders in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 24(2): 121-150.

    McWilliams, A., & Siegel, D. (2001). Corporate social responsibility: A theory of the firm perspective. The Academy of Management Review 29(1).

  5. jessicabibby says:

    Contrary to the research which you stated, research by Newcombe (2011) claims that guided play is more beneficial than free play. Guided play requires infants and adults to speak the same language and communicate together. Spatial language is also used and this is especially useful for children as it is required to develop spatial ability and awareness. This helps with activities which require knowledge of anything to do with space, even things such as fitting a suitcase in the back of a car.

    Newcombe, N. (2011). PLAYING WITH BLOCKS IMPROVES SPATIAL VOCABULARY. Temple’s Infant Laboratory.

  6. Indeed, children’s prodding curiosity and their pursuits to satisfy so may be a strain on the parents, and seldom explored for the reverse relationship; insightful in it’s brevity! Yet, there are several portions to which one may inquire: when mentioning activity, it is preferred if clarified the types, the extent, and for what duration to allow a well rounded view of the variable of ‘play’. Emotional distress and it’s further clarification (i.e. what extent, the duration of time for which it lasts for, if parents intervened, etc) – primarily regarding whether the stress, anxiety or depression is attributable to external influences (including surroundings, other children, etc). Conversely, in an environment without adults, and specifically, their parents, the child may experience the aforementioned variations of stress due to attachment relevant deficits. Detecting the relations, however, would prove difficult as salivary cortisol is required for collection, and in comparison to behavioural observation, is the only reliable quantitative method (Nachmias, 1996). Further, in an unhindered environment, the lack of adults and governing figures does indeed prohibit unhindered thoughts, yet the lack of moderation in the advantages may regress to constituting as a lack of guidance for the child. Essentially, one must ponder more extensively, ‘from where does the emotional distress stem’? The ‘social, emotional and intellectual’ influences, or lack of, may be the factors that prohibit the passing of the determinant threshold of stress. With no intervention or modelling, it can then ensue behaviours that are not structure, despite promoting a malleable mind. Ultimately, the child free play is advantageous in it’s holistic approach, yet to an extent should be moderated, whether from a distance or punctuated with moments of physical intervention. Thank you!


    Nachmias, M. (1996) Behavioral inhibition and stress reactivity: the moderating role of attachment security. Child Developmental, 67.

  7. bngpsych says:

    Media is associated with learned aggression in children (Huesmann, 1994). Joy et al., in 1973, carried out a longitudinal study through the use of a natural experiment, to ensure that it was ecologically valid. In 1973, 120 school children in British Columbia, Canada, were introduced to television (Joy, 1978). Their aggressive, physical and verbal behaviour was monitored and observed by investigators and teachers for two years. In 1975, two years after the introduction to television to the area, the 120 children’s aggressive behaviour increased. This result lead the investigators to assume that the increase in familiarity with the television would likely lead to heightened aggressive behaviour in children, due to the acceptable image that media has displayed of aggressive behaviour (Joy, 1978). Hence, the aggressive behaviour is likely to be maintained due to the media making it acceptable. However, these studies have shown that children who are more aggressive prefer to watch more aggressive television shows (Huesmann, 1994).
    Some psychologists have used the developmental theory to understand the relation between media violence and the increase in aggressive behaviour (Huesmann, 1986). It is assumed that there is a learning process during childhood which heightens the likelihood of media violence influencing a child’s aggressive behaviour (Huesmann, 1986). Also, that aggressive behaviour is stimulated through media.
    A number of studies have been carried out to investigate the effects of media violence on children’s aggressive behaviour. Bandura et al., 1963 investigated the effects role models have on a child’s imitative behaviour. His results concluded that a child will imitate role models aggressive behaviour, however, his study is criticised by being carried out in a laboratory. Nonetheless, his experimental study highlights the effects that media may have upon a child’s behaviour (Bandura, Ross & Ross, 1963).
    Today, media is very influential. While there are some conflicting investigations on the effects media has on aggressive behaviour, research by Bandura, 1963, and Joy, 1973, suggests that aggressive behaviour is learned through media violence. Thus, arguing that violent media should be sensitised to the younger audience to limit the psychological long-term effects it may have on behaviour.
    Bandura, A., Ross, D., & Ross, S. A. (1963). Imitation of film-mediated aggressive models. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 66(1).
    Huesmann, L. R. (1986). Psychological processes promoting the relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behaviour by the viewer. Journal of Social Issues, 42 (3), 125-139.
    Huesmann, L. R. ( 1994). Aggressive behaviour: Current perspectives. New York, USA. Plenum Publishing Corporation.
    Joy, A. L. (1978). Television exposure and children’s aggressive behaviour. Retrieved from,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s