There are so many benefits to free play (that unstructured, unplanned, unscheduled play that spontaneously happens around children). The child’s brain had developed and evolved over the years to do its best developing while children play freely. Every activity for a child is a learning opportunity.
Children who go to play based preschools do better in school and experience less test anxiety later on that children who go to a curriculum based preschool. Children who are allowed to play outside have lowered incidences of depression, anxiety, and obesity.
Pretend play helps children figure out this huge world around them, deal with tough situations, problem solve, figure out who they are, as well as understand the point of view of others. When children play together without adult interference they learn to deal with others and resolve differences on their own, developing their conflict management skills, cooperation skills, listening skills, communication skills, empathy… the list goes on and on.
Free Play. It’s an essential childhood staple, but it is also so much more than that.
These free play plugged in activities are just the beginning. There are more activities on the It’s All Kid’s Play blog here as well as here and on Pinterest. And sometimes I share ideas on Twitter, too! Oh! And be sure to check out the book I wrote, too. It includes even more travel games as well as over 1,000 other play activities so no matter where you are and what your interests or age, there is something in there for you–guaranteed! Check it out!
Don’t have bubble solution or a bubble wand? Fear not, check out the next two activities below!
Homemade Bubble Solution Recipe
If you don’t have bubble solution or bubble wands, you can make your own!
How to make your own bubble solution:
Ingredients needed to make bubble solution:
small container (deeper is better than wider)
10 mL (2 tsp) dish soap (Joy and Dawn work well)
60 mL (¼ cup) water
5 mL (1 tsp) glycerine (You don’t have to use it, but it will make the bubbles better. You can buy it in most drug stores.)
Mix all the ingredients together in the container. HINT: The bubble mix is better the second day, so if you have the time, make it the day before.
Make Your Own Bubble Wand
To make a homemade bubble wand you will need thin wire – about 20 cm long.
Take the wire and bend one end into a loop (a circle). Dip the loop into the soap mixture. To make more solution stay on your wand to make bigger bubbles, wrap yarn around the loop.
More bubble wand ideas: use a fly swatter, a hole cut in a plastic lid from a yogourt container, your hands–held in a circle shape. What else can you use to blow bubbles?
Create an Invisible Friend
What is their favourite food? What do they like to do? What is their name? Do they only show up when you are bored or when there is ice-cream?
Do each other’s hair and fingernails.
Design and make your own clothes. You may need help from an adult to use the sewing machine, buy fabric, as well as find a pattern. And then again, maybe you are a rockstar and can do this on your own!
If you aren’t feeling up to sewing, simply design your own clothes. Get out paper and a pencil and draw outfits. Add colour and notes if you want!
How many different dress styles can you make with a towel using only a safety pin or a big hair clip to hold it together? Personally, I am a big fan of the dress. Can you make pants?
Wear your pjs all day!
Build a Tower Out of Blocks
How high can you stack those blocks before… timber! Can you stack them in strange shapes? Pull a few blocks out without knocking them all down? Can you stack other toys into your tower too?
Lego or Other Inter-Locking Blocks
Forget the instructions! Forget the kits. Just build. Play. Create. What can you make?
Start a Collection
What would you like to collect? Stamps? Bottle caps? Rocks? Sticks? Buttons? Stickers? Sports cards? Find something you are interested in and start collecting.
If you already have a collection, maybe it’s time to reorganize it. Do you have two of something in your collection? Trade it with a friend!
Build an Indoor Fort
Big cushions (like off the couch), large cardboard boxes, chairs, and bed sheets are good things to use when making an indoor fort. Experiment. Find what works for you!
Want to build roads for your cars? Try making roads and cities for your cars and trucks out of blocks, boxes, paper, or even painters (masking) tape stuck to the floor.
Who gets to be the teacher?
Play with Action Figures or Dolls
Playdough or Other Sculpting Material
Don’t have playdough or clay? Try these easy homemade recipes for clay and for playdough.
Have a tea party with your friends, dolls, or teddy bears.
Invite friends over for a sleepover. Just… don’t forget to sleep! (And if you are looking for fun games to play at a sleepover, try these pages.)
Pull Someone in a Wagon
By the way, wagons so not take turns at high speeds very well. Also, it is really difficult to stay on a wagon when it is being spun around in the air. Don’t ask how I know these things…
How to play Leap Frog: Everyone curls up in a ball on the ground (facing the ground), all nicely lined up. The person at the end of the line stands up and leaps over each person in the line by placing their hands on the backs of the curled up people. They then, leap over (leg on either side of the person they are leaping over). When they reach the front of the line, they curl up. The ‘new’ person at the end of the line now leaps over everyone and places themselves at the front of the line.
Join a Club
Or start your own club! What are you interested in? Join it or start it!
Look at Old Family Photos
Sometimes it is really amazing to see how much everyone has changed over the years. If you are lucky, you’ll be able to get your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other people to tell you the stories behind those pictures.
Shred a Newspaper
Let it all out!!!! Rip it up with your hands! Shred, shred, shred!
(Make sure your parents are done with it first!)
Doesn’t that feel gooooood? 🙂
Plan a Perfect ‘Dream’ Day
What would your perfect day be like? Would someone bring you French Toast in bed? Would you spend all day at the swimming pool? Would your brother or sister have to be your servant?
Plan a Perfect Dream Trip or Vacation
What would your perfect trip or vacation be like? Would you spend a month at Disneyland? Would you go to summer camp? Would you drive across the planet in a fancy super car? Ride your bike across town, stopping at every ice cream place? Your imagination is the limit!
Make Shadow Figures / Shadow Puppets
Shine a light against a wall in a dark room. Hold your hands up between the light and the wall and make different shapes. Can you make rabbit ears? Some people can make all sorts of animals–can you?
Put on a shadow puppet show with your shadow puppets!
Act Out a Story
You can make up your own story, borrow a story from your favourite show to act out, or even act out your favourite book!
If you have your own camera, you are set to go take pictures. Be creative! If you don’t have one, ask to borrow one. (A disposable one is good if your parents are afraid to lend you theirs–although these days some reuseable digital cameras are about as cheap as a disposable one, plus it isn’t as hard on the environment and you can use it over and over again.)
Make a list of things to look for on a scavenger hunt. (Outside is more challenging and is a great way to have some outside fun!) Some ideas might be: rocks, leaves, insect, a sign, the number five, and what else?
Variations: Make it a photo scavenger hunt and take pictures of the things you see. What’s really cool is to break into teams and see the different pictures people come back with! You can even have a race with someone else! We used to do this with Polaroid cameras, but I gotta tell you, digital is cheaper. Yay for digital cameras.
Create a Puppet Show
Use a puppet you have or make one (as shown in the construction project section). You can make your own puppet theatre out of an old box, or use the back of the couch–you hide behind it and the puppets pop up over the top of the back of the couch. So easy!
Play pee-a-boo with a baby and see if you can make them giggle.
Skip (jump rope) by yourself and see how many times you can skip without tripping up the rope or stopping.
Do you have a long rope and two friends with you? Put one person on each end, spinning it around for the jumper. (Hint: you can tie two shorts ropes together to make a longer rope.)
There are hundreds of jump rope songs and games/stunts. You can ask your parents if they know any, look some up on the Internet, in a book, or make up your own.
Pretend to be Famous or a Well-Known Celebrity
What would it be like to be famous? How would you dress? How would you act? Where would you live? What would you eat? What would you do? Who would your friends be?
Pretend You Can Fly
Oh yeah! Flying, baby! How does the world look from up there?
If you just really can’t fly, maybe you are on a magic flying carpet!
Pretend You Are Invisible
Can’t see me! What would it be like to be invisible? Would you sneak up on people? Help the good guys catch the bad guys? Be a bad guy cookie stealer? “Hey! Where did my cookie go?”
Pretend You Are a Superhero
What’s your special superhero ability? Do you have a costume? Do superheroes have days off?
Explore a Foreign Land
Where are you? What is the weather like? Are there people here? Aliens? Do you speak their language or do you need a translator (a person of a gadget)? Are you looking for something in this strange land? What is it?
Pretend You are a Character From a Book
Who is your favourite book character? What are they/you like? What do they/you do? What kind of adventures do they/you have?
Pretend You Are an Animal
What animal are you? What do you eat? Where do you live?
Pretend You Are a Mime
Mimes cannot talk or make noises. They act out what they are thinking or saying by using their hands, body and facial expressions.
Pretend You Are a Grown Up at Work
Pretend You Are Blind
Being blind would certainly be a lot different than being able to see.
Close your eyes or blindfold yourself and try to do things you normally do. Make sure that you do this in a safe place (for example, away from stoves, stairs, and breakable objects). To help keep you safe, have a friend be your guide or help you by giving you directions. Take turns being blind. What do you think? What’s it like?
Pretend You Are the Opposite Sex
Are you a girl? Pretend you are a boy. What do they talk like? Walk like? Act like?
Are you a boy? Pretend you are a girl. What do they talk like? Walk like? Act like?
Looking for more? Try these pages:
Might I also suggest this time-saver…
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