Free Play

This is the seventh part in an eight-part blog series, Seven Simple Solutions to Smarter, Less Stressed Kids. Each post contains one new solution to help families grow together and help improve academic performance.


In our busy world, over-scheduling and over-stimulating our children may be hindering their intelligence rather than helping. Many of the world’s greatest discoveries happened during relaxed states. Albert Einstein came up with the theory of relativity when daydreaming while doing repetitive work at a patent office. James Watson claims his sudden insight during a good night’s sleep lead to the discovery of the double-helix, our DNA. Isaac Newton is said to have come up with his theory of gravity after seeing an apple fall from a tree while lounging in his mother’s garden.

Our natural state is to be creative; we need to give children time to access their natural states and find their gifts. While children are young, parents should provide free play opportunities in safe, print- and material-rich environments, that foster elements of observation and creativity. By age four, a child’s brain is 50% developed; by the teenage years, 80% of the brain is developed. Instead of constantly making sure your child is “doing something productive,” give them time to themselves…and watch the amazing ways they will use that time.


At least once each day, set aside Free Play time for your children.


  • With babies and toddlers, give them a safe space that is somewhat confined. Let them explore the playroom, for instance, while you are nearby reading a book.
  • Remember: safety first. Before giving babies, toddlers, and young children free play time, be sure to remove potentially dangerous items such as hot tea and coffee, knives, and other sharp objects from the area.
  • With tweens and teens, allow them an allotted amount of time outside of homework, after-school activities, and hanging out with friends – 30 minutes or 1 hour – where electronics are off and you are nearby. Ensure they have plenty of tools such as paper, pen, pencils, books, gardening or cooking supplies, and other non-electronic activities that they can choose from.