The Value of Free Play

There is a severe shortage of free play time today. Children learn through free play. They learn the consequences of their actions when they are interacting with other people on an intellectual level through free play. This is because they are experiencing the results and the consequences of their actions and experience begets knowledge.

You don’t teach experience, experience teaches you. From the time we’re infants, we learn from what we experience. When we were hungry, we cried, and somebody came and fed us. If our diaper is full, we’d cry and someone took away our discomfort, etc. As we progress, we learn how to interact with others through playing.

I believe it is free play that helps us to build our character. Is it any wonder in this day and age when kids go home to video games and empty households, that they feel isolated? You hear it from the older generation all the time, but it’s true…kids don’t play outside with each other that much anymore. The result of this isolation and lack of play and character development is an increase in negative behaviors such as bullying. I have polled several classes of mine and asked the kids if they had experienced bullying. Every hand in my class went up. Is it any wonder?

We need to find a way to provide safe places where children can go and interact with each other and make up games like we used to do when we had a lot less “entertainment” provided for us. We may not have had a lot of material to play with but we made up games from what we found around us. We invented games, we worked with each other in cooperation to make up the rules, and we made agreements that we would follow these rules. If we chose not to, than the other kids would just stop playing with us until we did.

Free play has so much to offer in terms of structure, personal growth and life lessons. Are there a whole lot of places out there where children can experience free play again? Where can kids go today and play cooperatively, using their imaginations and learning cause-and-effect.

This is been my goal for the last twenty years in teaching improv to children. Through my own experience, I found that this is the closest thing to free play in a safe environment out there. Improv is not just for kids who want to go into show business or perform. Absolutely not. It’s brain food, soul food and character food.

Improv is free play and all the perks one gets with it!