Structured vs Unstructured Play

Oh man, where did time go? It feels like one second ago I was pregnant with my son and then within a blink of an eye, I have an infant who loves to explore. I love my son so much and it gives me so much joy to see how he continues to meet his developmental milestones.

Every child loves playtime and it is important for parents to encourage lots of play time for their children especially at early childhood. Pediatricians are equally recommending play as an essential component to healthy and early development. Playing and exploring are very important for every child because this is the key for them to learn and develop. Just as childhood play is essential for brain development, play is also important for adults. For adults, play serves as a source of relaxation, pleasure, and it leads to a healthy adult hood. I say this to say outside of playing with your partner, you should incorporate play time with your little one and I will explain why later on. 

When children are given enough time to play, it develops their knowledge, experiences, curiosity and confidence. Play can be broken down into Unstructured and Structured play. These two forms of play are apt to your children’s development and just like everything else, the key is finding an equilibrium to both

Cooking is a great example of a Structured Play

What is Structured Play?

Just like the name connotes. Structured play includes a set rules and supervision by an adult.

Why Choose a Structured Play?

This form of play exposes your children to cognitive and comprehensive skills by challenging them to think ahead. Activities can be planned around doing chores at home, a family picnic, or at your leisure. Take for example, you and your toddler choose to build a sand castle at the beach. In doing this activity, you both take turns to fill up the bucket with sand. I want you to think about the skills your toddler is learning from this type of play. When enforcing structured play, your child  learns about social rules that he or she will need to abide by as a team player. It teaches self regulation, respecting boundaries, and strengthens parent – child relationships. 

Young boy playing on his dad’s back in a garden

Structured Play Activities.

  1. Science kits, lego games, and board games are perfect for structured play.

2. Find the object– Fill up a bowl with sand or rice. Hide a few objects and get your child looking for these objects. This activity teaches children perseverance and focus.

3. Cooking– When kids join in to cook, they learn thinking, problem solving and creativity.

4. Vinegar Volcano– This is a very fun activity that every kid must attempt. With this activity, children get excited when the volcano erupts and explodes when the vinegar is added. 

5. Friendship Bracelets: This activity is perfect for a family group and one on one play. It teaches children color coordination, friendship, and promotes eye- hand coordination. 


What is an Unstructured Play?

Unstructured play, as the name implies is free play but still supervised. There are no set rules because the child leads the play.

A kid having fun on her own (Unstructured Play)

Why Choose an Unstructured Play?

Unstructured play gives your child the opportunity to explore, adapt, lead, problem solve and promotes healthy imaginative activities. This form of play is controlled by the child, the child leads and decides what he or she wants to do for play time. By allowing this form of play, you are building up your child to have leadership skills.

Activities for Unstructured Play 

1. Play dress up– When kids play dress up, they have more independence because they learn to do things on their own when you are not there. They learn to use their imagination to pretend to be  someone else. Playing dress up also promotes self care skills in children because when they look good, they feel good. 

2. Sidewalk chalk– Give your kiddo a sidewalk chalk to draw and write while you sit back and read your favorite book. There are a lot of benefits from this activity some of which are, developing color recognition, sorting and matching skills, enhances academic knowledge, enhances art, promotes creativity, focus, improves and strengthens fine motor skills. 

3. Sticks and Rocks– This is a type of outdoor play that children absolutely love. You might think that this activity is dangerous and risky for your child but its nature. It’s about time that we teach kids to enjoy and appreciate nature instead of hammering their thumbs on technological devices all day. As long as your child is using them safely and appropriately it is totally fine and of course with supervision. As a kid, I enjoyed playing with sticks and rocks . I used them as my pretend utensils and meat. So, I would dig up a hole in the ground, fill it up with rice and leaves and then add little stones as my meat. Afterwards, I finish it up with stirring up my pretend food with the sticks. How fun is that ? ah -ha 

4. Building blocks– Give your kids a set of building blocks and watch their imaginations come to life. Anything is possible with building blocks. 

Fundamentally, children need both structured and unstructured types of play. Structured play teaches social rules , strengthens parent – child relationship etc, while unstructured play teaches kids to problem solve, independence etc. Finding a balance for these types of play teaches children to cultivate a variety of skills.


As always, see you beauties on my next blog post. Be sure to share, like, comment, and leave suggestions on topics you’d be interested in. Remember to stay kind, and gentle to yourself.

See you soon !!! 🙂 

Published by VeraYanney

Vera Yanney, is a wife and a mother who believes that women often times struggle with balancing these roles (Womanhood, Wife-hood, & Motherhood). Her blog Mom Rapport, empowers a healthy balance between feminine roles and also supports Millennial moms, doing the best that they can. Not forgetting that we are women first.

2 thoughts on “Structured vs Unstructured Play

  1. As a new mom with an active 4 month Old I already know he is going to keep me on my toes so this content is a blessing to me. We do a lot of structured play and it started from tummy time reading and more. Now he is sitting and grabbing a lot and wants to sit and reach for stuff by himself. The mama bear in me is too protective to let him. I am happy I have different idea of play to explore with him as he grows excited to try the hiding objects in rice when he is a little older. Awesome content. Thanks for sharing 👏🏽🤗

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to read my blog post. Ahha kids enjoy play time, & they never run out of energy. Pls keep me posted on how “find the objects” works for him. As always pls stay tuned for more amazing contents every Saturday @12pm . Good job mama ! You are doing such a fantastic job with your little one ❤️

      Like

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