Recreation and Sport Studies

Studying, Experiencing and Facilitating Kinesiology, Recreation and Sport through Wellness and Physical Activity

Playing it Right!

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By Molly MacDonald & Lisa Bastarache

The importance of unstructured play

What is play?

Play is engaging in exercise or activity that is done for amusement or recreational purposes. Play exists in 2 formats, Structured play, which involves organization and planning like sports teams and planned activities. There is also unstructured play, which lacks any organization and planning, but a creative mind.

Why is play unstructured important?

Unstructured play is an essential part of youth development as it provides youth with many benefits such as life lessons and opportunities that they get from their experience in an environment with the people they interact with. Play can be anything from recreational activities that involve physical activities, to being creative by reading books or by doing arts and crafts.

However, over the years play for some children has become less of a priority or considered in their daily schedule as they are committed to other organized activities. This is due to neighbourhood safety, family situations, and academic standards. Housing situations can be a factor of letting children go and play in the neighbourhood. Some parents/guardians don’t feel as though their neighbourhood is safe to let their children play in unsupervised, and depending on parent’s schedules, they feel as though it is safer to have the children in structured programs after school where they can be supervised at all times. With many families now having both parents working throughout the day, schedules become very busy, with driving to different locations. This can lead to less family time. Lastly, with the standard of academic becoming very important, many children are being pressured to focus on studies, and are getting limited time to have some unstructured play.

Ideally, having parents/guardians participating in child driven play, acts as it is positive reinforcement for play, and it allows for bonding, as adults can see the world for the child’s perspective. There is also the benefit that having recreational unstructured play can help decrease obesity rates, decrease children’s stress levels and learn from their surroundings. There are many benefits for involving children and youth in unstructured play, and although many families have different situations, and there are many solutions to choose from.

As RSS professionals we can also offer opportunities for children and youth to participate in play.

When was the last time you played right?

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