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The Importance of Free Play

Play is so central to a young child’s learning and development that the United Nations has declared it as a human right for every child. This makes perfect sense since it is the natural way in which children develop confidence, learn to care for others and the environment as well as develop physical, language, social, communication and problem-solving skills.

4 mins to read Feb 10, 2022

Types of Play

There are various types of play that can be viewed on a spectrum. They are based on the degree of guidance and involvement that each type requires from a teacher or parent.  Each of them is beneficial in its own way, but  many experts believe that unstructured, free play is most essential for young children to flourish.

Introducing Free Play

Free play is labelled as “free” because it is typically initiated by the child itself and the game unfolds at its own pace while being fuelled by the child’s imagination. In free play, the flow of the game is naturally supported by the unique developmental level and interests of the child.

  1. Pretend play typically involves pretending to be animals or characters from books or television shows and often goes hand in hand with building tents or creating houses with boxes or furniture covered with blankets and towels.
  2. Exploring and utilising new or favourite play spaces such as a playground, park, a special corner in the backyard or even a cupboard can be categorised under the umbrella term of “free play”. In fact, any space can become a play place when children engage with it freely to express themselves, using their bodies and hands to get around and manipulate, transfer, order or utilise objects
  3. Creative expression includes drawing, playing with playdough, staging a play or creating music. This is also a form of free play if the activity is not directed and structured by an adult. If it is directed by an adult, it’s known as instructional play.

How to encourage Free Play

Being supportive in this regard can be as simple as providing balls and a sand pit with appropriate tools for outside play. Parents can also create a designated play area or a special corner indoors where children have easy access to what is needed to create pictures, play with playdough, build constructions with blocks, dress up and make music in their own way and at their own time.

From time to time, you may also want to set out “an invitation to play” by placing playdough, tools, sticks, beads and leaves on a table. Or why not place an empty box on its side and provide a basket of balls that your child can roll or kick towards the “goal”?

Interestingly, developmental experts say we should be more encouraging when a child shows interest in taking on a clearly defined social role by pretending to be someone else, such as a doctor, shop keeper, restauranteur, policeman or teacher. It creates an opportunity for them to reflect on what they know about these roles, expand their emotional repertoire and practise stepping into the shoes of people that they perceive as having certain rights and responsibilities.

Happy children play more

A varied and balanced diet is important for many reasons. One is because happy children are more relaxed, confident and ready to express themselves through play.

Children need more energy and essential nutrients than adults, but many children are switched too early and too abruptly to an adult-like diet and unmodified cow’s milk that does not meet their nutritional needs. This can lead to a risk of nutrient deficiencies. When children don’t feel right, they cannot play wholeheartedly and grow up happy.

NESTLÉ® LACTOKID® 4 is a delicious and creamy drink for growing children aged 3 to 5 years containing a combination of tummy-friendly ingredients.

NESTLÉ® LACTOKID® 4 is the only drink for growing children that contains COMFORTIS®, an active culture. It is also a source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D, E and the minerals Iodine & Zinc.

With NESTLÉ® LACTOKID® 4, your child’s happy tummy will mean they have more time to play, learn and have fun.


References: 1. -on-the-rights-of-the-child-1/ 2. Zosh JM, Hirsh-Pasek K, Hopkins EJ, Jensen H, Liu C, Neale D, et al. Accessing the Inaccessible: Redefining Play as a Spectrum. Front Psychol 2018;9(AUG):1–12. 3. First 5 LA. CHILD DEVELOPMENT 101 – Note To Moms: Don’t Hover Over Kids During Playtime [Internet]. 2020 [cited
2021 May 25]. Available from: URL:">

IMPORTANT NOTICE. NESTLÉ® LACTOKID® 4 is not a breast-milk substitute, and is formulated to support the changing nutrition needs of healthy children older than 3

November 2021
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