Leave Unstructured Play Unstructured, Please

Some Rights Reserved by plasticrevolver


In a conversation about homework and unstructured play, we find an assumption that unstructured play happens outdoors.

  • What about children who live in apartments?
  • Should homework be used as a babysitter?


Unstructured play = imagination.  You can play for hours in a small corner.  My girls play for hours inside.  And outside.  With a myriad of tools or none at all.  Their greatest tool – imagination.

  • Should we provide examples of unstructured play?
  • Do we show parents how to do it?


As soon as we start providing examples, it is no longer unstructured.

While I understand the need for education and examples, I do feel we need to be very careful that we don’t create formulas that can be copied.  The beauty of unstructured play is freedom and choice.  Rather than provide examples, let’s provide the ingredients necessary for unstructured play to happen.

imagination + freedom + choice + inspiration (in the form of a rock, toy, shell, spoon, etc) = unstructured play

After this, let’s just let them play.  It is exhausting work, and when left alone, children can and will do it for hours and hours.  My greatest joy as a parent are the occasional moments when I overhear their play.  It’s inspiring.  And it can happen anywhere.  As long as we stay out of it and let them dream!


I want to write everyday.  Blog everyday.  Exercise everyday. Mediate everyday.  Read volumes of brilliant literature or any of the hundreds of great books I have that will make me a better educator and person…everyday.  Be a mindful mother.  Play.  Walk. Do Yoga.

And that’s just what I want to do everyday.  That doesn’t count the 101 projects I have on the go…all inspirational things that feed my passions – a book of poetry for Mia, stories about runaway cupcakes for Madison, a peace charter, the fledgling research proposal for my PhD application…and the list goes on and on.  In fact, my husband jokes about my ongoing list of “things to do.”

Yet, I find myself resisting.  Not so much by not doing anything, but in doing too many things at once.  In being unable to focus.  Currently, I have cut back from the five books I was reading to just two, and wow, what a difference it has made.

Part of my “scattered,” I think, is the result of a hugely busy school year.  Leadership and teaching is being able to juggle numerous porcelain plates without dropping them, and even when we do it well, what we lose is our ability to slow down and focus.

And so this summer, as I transition from one place to the next, I am going to take some time for mindful reflection and sharing, and I’ll be using this space to download some of my “scattered.”

I believe we should be sharing and learning together, and so I am going to use this blog to share some successes and failures, reflect upon the past year, and generate new ideas.  Essentially, I am going to use this blog as a way to remain mindful, practical and reflective.  Hold me to it as I embark upon my 30/30 plan – 30 posts for 30 days of reflection.