When our children have the opportunity to take part in unstructured play with an adult who is genuinely invested in the activity, such as with Connetix Tiles, they can reap a number of benefits relating to boosts in their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development with direct payoffs for the future.
We know that unstructured play gives children an opportunity to explore and be creative without specific guidelines, allowing them to develop a sense of self-guidance and autonomy that is needed for building confidence. When working with a parent, caregiver, or friend, they practice valuable communication and teamwork skills while also developing their own set of problem-solving skills, from deciding who takes the next turn to diagnosing why a particular action did not give them the expected outcome and how to rectify it.
For parents, taking part in unstructured play with their children also provides an opportunity to build a safe, loving environment where mutual respect and trust may be built. Parents here can act as helpers, advisors, or just as play partners to encourage creative thinking in their children who in turn get to practice bringing any problems they encounter during play to their parent’s attention. These types of interactions are integral for improving parent/child relationships as well as instilling interpersonal skills in children so that they can openly communicate and work with others while managing their emotions regarding the task at hand.
Unstructured play, also referred to as free play, should occur spontaneously and focus on what ever the child wants to do in that moment so they can exercise control and self-guidance, build from their own imagination, and move at their own pace. Sometimes they will want to play with you, with other children, or even on their own, all of which are acceptable, and we should try to avoid telling them how they should be playing as much as possible unless asked or if we need to act as mediators.
By creating a safe environment where children can lead with their imagination and learn what things they like or don’t like to do, we are also providing them with a space to make mistakes and find answers to problems that they face without any fear of repercussions. As parents, being by their side through this process and giving them the freedom to either ask for help or tackle a problem on their own gives us additional exercises in communication and emotional support where we can practice either standing back and letting them think through a process or talk them through an obstacle so that they can achieve what they set out to do.
The great part about using Connetix Tiles is that because they are open-ended toys, children can engage in a wide range of activities that allow them to explore from almost any age and experience level and create more intricate games as they get older. These are perfect for encouraging unstructured play since the tiles themselves do not limit children as much as other toys that are designed with a single purpose in mind.
Children can use the tiles for artistic play from matching colours and building a mosaic of patterns to connecting tiles together to form pictures, animals, or people. They can also build structures, buildings, and geometric shapes with low or high levels of complexity to grow an understanding of geometry and spatial awareness while working their fine motor-skills.