Free Play Time … An Example

Yesterday we mentioned the use of puppets and a puppet theater as a means to facilitate free play in a library setting. Space didn’t permit much elaboration then, but in today’s post I’d like to adapt the article written by the schools librarian, Mrs. Shriver.

Students in grades K-5 anxiously wait for their turn to use the puppets. The helper for the day goes first, choosing a friend and they create a one minute play for their fellow students to observe. The students are learning about many things during this Free Play time including:

  • How to be a good audience
    How to share
    How to act out a story with a beginning, middle and end

The American Academy of Pediatric’s Clinical Report published in 2007 and titled ‘The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds‘ states that Free Play is a necessary component of a child’s day. The article also reports that Play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child.

For the library classes Free Play:

  • allows kids to use their creativity and develop their imagination, dexterity, and other strengths and encourages kids to interact with the world around them.
  • helps kids to conquer their fears and builds their confidence
  • teaches kids to work in groups, so they learn to share and resolve conflicts
  • helps kids practice decision-making skills
  • IS FUN

It is important to note that this kind of play is meant to be unstructured, child driven play. It is not the kind of play time that is totally controlled by adults and doesn’t include passive play, such as sitting in front of a video game, computer, or TV.

The puppet theater for the library was purchased through grant funds and most of the puppets were donated. It is very possible to make your own puppet theater at a minimal cost. There are many designs and instructions on the internet including ‘Puppet Theater TutorialLowes and Squidoo. Puppets can be very expensive, but usually if you ask around you will be able to find individuals who have some lying around which they are happy to donate.  Parents should also remember that puppet theaters are a great ‘learning toy’ for the home.

Once you have your theater remember to provide limited instruction, supervision and direction to the children/students. After all True Free Play is any kind of unstructured activity that encourages your child to use his/her imagination, such as playing with blocks and dolls. It wouldn’t include playing with most electronic games.


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Filed under Improved Learning, My Experiences, Parenting

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