Structured vs. unstructured play: How to balance both

It is essential to know the importance of both structured and unstructured play. Our goal as parents is to encourage independence in our children. It fosters creativity and imagination. They also learn to enjoy themselves and have the freedom to explore and develop their interests and skills.

Structured play

It is a play/activity with structured instructions and goal-oriented adults who are led.

It can be something other than well-organized or formal. You can include any cognitive or physical activity. You could show them how to use a spoon, a tumbler, or blocks. Or how to throw a football.

Facilitators can use structured play to introduce toys, activities, and tasks that toddlers and infants might be unable to discover.

The Benefits of Structured Play

Children are exposed to various activities that help build strength, balance, and coordination.

Teach specific life skills, such as organizing toys and cleaning up after them.

Enhances comprehension and listening skills.

Assists delayed gratification.

They will become more confident and well-rounded if pushed out of their comfort zones.

This type of play teaches them to lead others and follow two important teamwork traits.

Unstructured Play

Play sessions/activities with no structured instructions are open-ended, unstructured, and led by the child. It can be any play or training the child chooses, indoors or out.

Unstructured play is where children can explore their creativity and create any activity.

Children can have fun in unstructured play, which encourages creativity, imagination, and problem-solving.

Tassoni, a researcher, states that children are more likely to focus and persevere when they have control over their learning. They are more motivated because they choose something that interests them .”

Please note that adults can’t control unstructured play. However, you should still supervise them while they’re outside playing.

Unstructured Play

Children can experiment with different things and are encouraged to do so.

They can solve their problems.

Promotes imagination and supports emotional and social development.

Children can control their actions and make decisions, which helps them become independent and self-reliant.

Structured play teaches your child how to behave in social situations. Unstructured play allows your child to respond and adapt to changing social conditions.

Example of Structured and Unstructured Play with the Same Toy/Activity

Any toy or activity can be used for structured and unstructured play, depending on how you use it.


During structured play, you might teach your child how to throw the ball in a basket (basketball) or toward a bat (baseball).

Unstructured play is when the child can decide what they want to do with the ball. You may see them throwing the ball against the wall or playing catch-up.

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