Give your children unstructured time to play freely.
Value “free play.”
No matter how old your child is, allow your child the liberty to play freely. View it as a developmental necessity, and identify where you can allow your child more freedom.
Know your child.
Define what degree of freedom your child is ready for—identify the amount of time, the location, and the type of activity your child will be allowed during their free play time.
Create agreements with other parents.
Your child will want to play with other children, so collaborate with other parents to ensure your child will have someone to play with.
Stimulate their imagination with toys.
Offer your child (and their friends!) toys and other materials that foster imaginative play. One example is giving them a box full of a thousand Lego bricks and allowing them to build whatever comes to mind. Let their imagination run wild!
Create space between you and your child.
Allow your child the freedom to decide what they want to do during their free play time. Refrain from hovering over them; if you must observe them, do it from a greater distance than usual. If your child gets into a dispute with another child, allow the two of them to work it out, and don’t step in unless it is absolutely necessary.
Wince, don’t pounce.
Your child might get hurt while playing freely, but that’s okay! Be there to hug them or provide a Band-Aid if necessary, but don’t try to prevent them from getting hurt.
Create a culture of free outdoor play.
First, meet your neighbors and tell them that your children will play outdoors more often. Then, join hands with them and your local officials to make your neighborhood safer and more child-friendly. Create an environment where all your children can play and explore the outdoors. This space could be as small as a set of adjoining backyards or as big as an area a few blocks square!
Give your child a cell phone for emergencies. Otherwise, enforce limits on electronics.
Allow your child to carry a cell phone just in case they need to reach you during an emergency, but ensure that when your child has free play, they are not glued to their screen.
Adults play too! Let your children see you engaging in hobbies such as practicing guitar, working a puzzle, knitting a sweater, etc. Show your kids the importance of free play by engaging in it yourself.
Speak up about the benefits of free play.
Educate your community and encourage other parents to embrace free play for their children!