Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
Playwork Principles (Play Wales, 2005)
We are passionate about providing opportunities for child-led activities. Of course we shall plan sessions so that there is plenty to do and learn but we believe it is essential to be flexible to the needs and curiosities and passions of the children. We may start out learning about colours and end up tracking deer!
Free play is also an important part of our sessions where children are given time to explore and play freely. When children control their own play they:
Have a chance to try out different roles – As they create stories and scenes, they can become whatever characters they choose. For example, in a game of “house”, they might try being the parent, the oldest child, the visiting neighbor, or even the family dog!
Learn at their own rate – Children choose when to repeat or practice and when to move on to something new.
Feel powerful – In pretend play, children can have any power they can imagine. Like a superhero, they can be strong, or fly, or make it stop raining.
Work through feelings – Children can re-enact things that bothered them and change what happens, or let themselves be angry without hurting anyone. They can use play as a physical release or they can use play to transform stress into a game (like creating a hunting game by losing their coat when it is time to leave and they would rather stay).
Develop imagination – Children can create their own stories, characters, and games. They can make their own pictures instead of coloring in something that someone else has drawn.