It seems like kids are playing all the time, but as they get into school their unstructured play time becomes more occasional.

What is free play?

It’s that unstructured play that doesn’t have a specific goal, mission or rules developed by the adult monitoring things. Adults can easily toss this up to “just playing”, but there is so much more to that!

Important note: Free play is a not electronic play.  

There’s plenty of research around play, and at the end of the day, play helps children develop:

1. Creativity

2. Adaptability

3. Flexibility

4. Trial & Error

5. Perseverance

6. Decision making

7. Problem solving

Free play with other kids also develops skills such as:

8. Leadership

9. Negotiations 

10. Teamwork 


Daily schedules can get hectic and busy, but creating some sacred space to let our kids “just play” will lead to continued development of these critical life skills. Creating space for them is just like making sure you create your own “self care” time.

So just how do you create some space for them to play? 


On a personal note, my family has a different schedule for weekdays and weekends or  vacations. This is just an example of a schedule, what matters is that you can find one that work for your family. 

  • Work week: As soon as the kids get home from school, they have 30 to 60min of free play (depending on what time they get picked  up). It always happens when we get home from school, and is a time we hold sacred for them.
  • Weekend: It is important to keep things flexible on the weekends, because social obligations vary depending on the weeks (extracurricular activities, errands or birthday parties). This is why, the rest of the time should be protected free play.
  • Vacations: Time allocated to free free play is definitely depends on the type of trip, but it is important to reserve an important portion of time for family free play, focused on exploring and experiencing. For instance, this past spring break, we created an indoor beach and just let them play. 

Bring on the free play! And I guarantee you will find joy in watching the delight in their faces, the creative stories, and even the breathing moment it provides you.

Elaine is a researcher of play & personality and the Founder of Heart of Play Kids.  

Elaine Chung

Researcher + Mother