5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play

 5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty
This post is sponsored by Capri Sun; the official drink of the Connerty kids and the perfect way to quench your thirst after some unstructured play.

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play

My kids are pretty active and as a result they are involved in a lot of activities. We have a hectic schedule and it feels like some days we spend the entire day in the car going from activity to activity without a lot of downtime.

The most important thing to me as a parent is that my kids have time to be kids. No homework. No electronics. No pressure. Just good old-fashioned play. Unstructured play.

“There is a kind of problem solving that happens in play that is unpredictable.  Play supports learning in ways that structured tasks cannot” shares Amy Parks, assistant professor of early childhood education at the University of Georgia.

Here are a few ways that we manage to get in as much unstructured play as possible in my household.

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

1. Let them lead.

We love to let our kids lead and make plans. In fact, we do this quite a bit alternating which kid gets to make the plans although sometimes they do like to work together to come up with a plan.

For instance, when we got to the beach for spring break, the first thing that I did was to have the kids pick some things that they wanted to do while we were here. I had the kids talk amongst themselves and come to us with ideas. My son came and said, “Do we have to plan anything? Can we pick things as we go along?” My husband and I thought that was the perfect plan so of course we said yes.

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

2. Send them outside and keep them hydrated.

We have mandatory outside time at our house every Saturday and Sunday no matter what the weather is like. We walk around the neighborhood, feed the ducks in the pond and just generally hang out as a family. We have discovered some pretty amazing places in and around our neighborhood.

To keep us all hydrated, we keep a well-stocked cooler in the open garage during those hot summer days. We fill it with CAPRI SUN. On a really hot day, my kids love nothing more than a slightly frozen CAPRI SUN Organic in Grape. They ask for them by name and flavor. I have to admit, that I have tried them myself and they are really good.

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

3. Give them what they need to be active.

At our house, we have the motherlode of outdoor toys so that the kids always have something different to do every day. We want them to be able to pick and choose exactly what they want to do when they go outside.

Kids can:

  • Ride bikes
  • Ride skateboards
  • Play cornhole
  • Play Frisbee
  • Jump rope
  • Play basketball, volleyball or lacrosse in the yard
  • Play badminton or croquet
  • Fish in the pond next door
  • Watch birds and other animals
  • Shoot waterguns

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

4. Declare a “no electronics” time period.

The best thing that my husband and I have ever done for our family was to declare a “no electronics” period. Every day in our home, there are no electronics allowed from 5-8pm. This means everyone is powered down and they have to find things to do that do not involve iPads, TV, video games, etc. You wouldn’t believe how many plays and shows my kids have created during these times. My kids turned off electronics and the creativity just flowed.

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

5. Get in the car and go.

Every time we take a road trip and go on vacation, we have a day where we just get in the car and go. We have no plans but we drive in the car until everyone agrees on an activity to do together. On our last vacation, we ended up ziplining for the entire day and the kids still mention it as the best vacation day ever.

It is always amazing to me how much of an impact unstructured play has on the wellbeing of my children. They are happier, well adjusted and I am convinced that they sleep better.

More on CAPRI SUN Organic

I wanted to share a little more about what we are drinking. CAPRI SUN Organic is made with 66% juice plus has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. There is no added sugar and it is sweetened only with fruit juice. You get 100% of the recommended daily value of vitamin C.

CAPRI SUN Organic offers kids a taste they will love and gives parents a wholesome option. Find Capri Sun Organic nationwide for $4.29 for a 10-pack of 6-ounce pouches in the following flavors: Fruit Punch, Tropical Punch, Apple and Grape.

How do you encourage your kids to have unstructured play?

5 Tips to Encourage Unstructured Play Capri SunPhoto Credit: Stacie Connerty

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23 Comments Leave a Comment »

  1. Robin Masshole Mommy

    My two are outside all summer. They love making up games in the yard.

  2. These are great tips. I was just talking with another mom the other day about how our kids seem to have to make appointments in their own lives to actually BE kids.

  3. This is a great list. I encourage my kids to play outside as much as possible. I hate when they spend too much time with electronics!

  4. Catherine Sargent

    These are all great tips. I always made sure my son played outside. It was good way for him to burn off some energy. I will have to pick up some grape Capri Sun Organic.

  5. Pam

    Active unstructured play is so important to kids development. We definitely try to encourage it.

  6. Putting away the technology and experiencing some good old fashioned play is always such an excellent idea. I love seeing my kids being active and using their imaginations!

  7. Jeanine

    I love and am always encouraging instructured play! I think these are some great tips and I think they’ll help many!

  8. I have two grandsons that are 4 and 2. They’re not old enough to go outside on their own yet, but in the house they will play forever with no guidance. Inevitably one will get hurt or they will have a little tif, but a few quick words of reassurance from Mom and all is well again. Then they’ll go right back to it.

  9. We keep the garage stocked with as many outdoor toys as possible. My daughter just got a new skateboard and bike for the holidays that she is really looking forward to good use this summer.

  10. The no electronics is a big part of that. If they’re in a position where they have to make their own fun, they will!

  11. We don’t allow screen time during the week and they only get a little bit of screen time on the weekend and it’s made my twins so much more creative and active. My daughter loves to crochet and knit and my son is constantly making forts and shooting nerf guns. They also spend tons of time at the park each week playing on the playground and running around with other kids.

  12. Kathy

    I love this post! I think it’s extremely important to cut out the electronics sometimes during the day. I love that it’s starting to get nice out because my daughters love to be outside when it’s a nice day out.

  13. I’m going to work on doing this with the boychild. I’m always trying to find ways for him to have fun and stay active

  14. This is a great topic for both this time of year and also this time of tech device mayhem.
    It is important to make sure kids see other ways to have fun and keep active.

  15. I’m constantly kicking my kids outside to play and figure things out for themselves. Unstructured play is so good for kids.

  16. It is super important for kids to use their imagination and play freely. It fuels their creativity and imagination.

  17. Have screen time limits helps here, too. Making sure everyone is outside makes them come with their own things to do!

  18. I totally agree with all of your list. Kids need to be kids and we need to let them be. On most days, we go out and play with them. I hate it when my boys spends so much time on gadgets.

  19. At one point, my kids were so used to everything being scheduled that when we didn’t have something planned, it caused a problem. They whining was ridiculous. So, I made an effort to schedule less and I think it has really helped them both learn to find creative ways to fill “free” time.

  20. I love the whole ‘no electronic’ time period bc every kids needs that. These are some really great tips!

  21. Now that the weather is getting warmer here, our kids always asked us to go and play outside which we always do. It’s better for them to stay outside and be active than be hooked with their gadget all the time.

  22. I just let my kids play with her cousins or with the neighborhood kids. They play hide and seek and whatever they want outside. Great tips, you got here.

  23. We need more moms to use this advice! When kids are outside with no electronics they get creative. Good for you for knowing how to balance it. They will be great adults

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