Ideas to encourage unstructured play

Time to have some fun!
Time to have some fun! 

From learning how to share and negotiate with others, to challenging their boundaries and developing their creativity, through to fitness and simply having fun, children most certainly need active, unstructured play. Yet between scheduled activities and extra homework it is becoming increasingly difficult for children to find the time to be spontaneous and parents are similarly pressured with work and home duties.

Research commissioned by the MILO team and conducted by an independent research agency in November 2011 (the MILO State of Play study) found that almost all parents and grandparents feel that unstructured playtime is essential for children’s development - and most of their kids agree. Unfortunately though, thirty-seven percent of children say that they’ve run out of ideas for play. So if you (or they) are looking for inspiration then try some of these fun activities:

Pillowfight! You don’t need a yard, equipment or space – all it takes is five minutes, a few soft pillows and a good aim to send your kids off to bed in a happy mood.

Hide and seek. It has been a favourite game for generations – and even older kids still love it! It’s easy to play anywhere, anytime, at a moment’s notice.

Have a disco! While your kids might roll their eyes at your music choices and think that your dance moves are hopelessly old-fashioned, there’s no doubt that turning the lights off and having an impromptu, ten-minute disco will make everyone smile.

Or a talent show! Whether it’s GLEE, Young Talent Time or My Kitchen Rules, chances are there’s a talent show that appeals to your kids. So stage your own cooking/singing/dancing themed show at home. Not only is it great for their creativity, it helps develop their confidence to present in front of others.   

Build a cubby house. Whether it’s indoors or out, kids love constructing things. Bring home some boxes from the grocers next time you’re there and place an order for a three-storey mansion. Couch cushions and sheets or tree branches and picnic rugs work just as well.

Blind-folded taste test. While probably only for those with an adventurous palate, conducting a blind-folded taste test in the kitchen with your kids while you’re cooking dinner is a great way to entertain them while you get the chores done.

Wash the car (or dog) together. While the MILO State of Play study found that 99% of grandparents believe playtime to be not only important but actually essential for children’s development, most grandparents would probably also remember doing plenty of chores around the house as well. With the right attitude, active chores such as washing the car, doing some gardening or cleaning the windows - all with a quick water fight thrown in - can be packaged as a fun family activity.

Head to your local pool. While it may need to be indoor and heated in winter, having some fun in the pool is a fantastic way for your kids to work off some energy with their friends.

Play snap! If you’re looking for a more sedate option that still gets the heart rate going then pull out a deck (or two) of cards and play a family game of snap after dinner.

Have a big family hug. Okay so it’s not really exercise, but it’ easier to be spontaneous if you’re in a good mood – and a big group hug is sure to put everyone in a great frame of mind!
      
What are your favourite family activities? Share with other members on the Essential Kids' Forums.
     

Between scheduled activities and extra homework it is becoming increasingly difficult for children to find the time to be spontaneous and parents are similarly pressured with work and home duties.