The Importance of Free Play

The Importance of Free Play: We are big fans of play here at Mudpie Fridays. In fact its probably one of the reasons I started writing here in the first place. The first ever post I wrote was all about setting up a dinosaur small world play in a tuff spot. Although its a little cringe worthy on the writing front I still stand for all its messages. That play should be fun and give the child the chance to explore and make their own decisions. I had no idea that the sort of play we enjoy here is actually termed Free Play.

So what is free play?

Play England defines Free Play as “…children choosing what they want to do, how they want to do it and when they want to stop and try something else. Free Play has no external goals set by adults and has no adult imposed curriculum. Although adults usually provide the space and resources for Free Play and might be involved, the child takes the lead and the adults respond to cues from the child.”

As a toddler Monkey would have access to all sorts of treasure baskets and play materials. He would move from one thing to another with very little interaction from me. I would sit and watch and help him when he wanted it. We specifically chose a childcare provider that supported this type of play and learning through practicing Reggio Emilia. Yet as he has grown and started school he now chooses to turn to the TV and play on his tablet for entertainment. Sometimes I am too busy to realise that he no longer plays as much as he use to, preferring technology interventions to fill his boredom.

I know we are not alone, yet we started out on the play journey so well! Which is why the Petits Filous Play Free Campaign could not have come at a better moment. Launching today the campaign highlights the child development benefits of Free Play and how children learn through Free Play. A very timely reminder for me!


Play helps children to learn things that can not be taught

If you think of the types of play we use to engage in as kids then tended to be outside building camps, forts and tree houses. As a child I would disappear to play over the fields for most of the day with the little friends I had in my street. Thats not something that really seems to happen now. Activities are a lot more structured and kids are not allowed to roam for fear of the worst happening. Although as a parent I acknowledge this, it doesn’t mean that the play I use to get up to can’t be adapted for Monkey and Kipper. To make it a safer version for the next generation. Monkey could still build forts and dens in the garden or even in the living room. Kipper could still enjoy a mud kitchen and getting filthy. They could still have all the learning experiences I did as child.

One thing is for sure, while they are out adventuring and taking part in Free Play its important the children get everything they need to ensure they are developing correctly. Petits Filous provides Monkey with the goodness of calcium and vitamin D, for healthy bones*. I didn’t realise that children can not make calcium so its important that they get it through their diet. The easiest way to do this is to ensure they get three portions of calcium a day. Although yogurts and fromage frais contain calcium not all have vitamin D. Petits Filous are fortified with vitamin D which means they now contain 50% of the recommend daily allowance of vitamin D. You can learn more about the nutritional benefits of Petits Filous at

Monkey has always loved Petits Filous and it makes the perfect snack for Free Play at home or away. Since they have Petits Filous pouches which are ideal for when we are out and about as they don’t need a spoon and can be kept out of the fridge  for five hours! There are also the Petits Filous little pots which are great for at home and just the right size for Monkey. Not only does Monkey enjoy them but a recent Change4Life campaign launched by Public Heath England recommends Petits Filous with less than 100 calories per serving as a healthy snack for kids!**

Petits Filous Play Free campaign Campaign image.jpg

I am sure the Petits Filous Campaign will help me to put Free Play back on our agenda and reduce some of the screen time. In the coming weeks I will be discussing our own free play experiences with parenting expert Anita Cleare. I look forward to sharing these with you here on Mudpie Fridays, so please do bookmark this post and come back in a couple of weeks to find out how we got on.



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I am working with Petit Filous and Britmums promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.

*EU Authorised Claim: ‘Calcium and vitamin D are needed for normal growth and development of bone in children’

***on specific variants: Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Apricot Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Banana Fromage Frais 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Strawberry Fromage Frais 6 x 47g,Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Fromage Frais 4 x 85g, Petits Filous Strawberry & Apricot Fromage Frais 4 x 85g,My First Petits Filous 6 x 47g, Petits Filous Magic Squares Strawberry & Vanilla 4 x 80g, Petits Filous Magic Squares Raspberry & Vanilla 4 x 80g, Petits Filous Strawberry Pouch 1 x 70g, Petits Filous Raspberry Pouch 1 x 70g,Petits Filous Strawberry & Raspberry Yoghurt 4 x 100g


  1. sharon stanley

    It does seem a shame that kids are using more tech now than playing. We make a point of having tech free time and the girls enjoy the best of both worlds, but it is hard to get the balance when you’re working at home and want minimal distractions. I am happy to say that the younger two enjoy both tech and playing outside using sheets and pegs to make tents over my washing line and creating their own games out of household bits and bobs (when the UK weather allows it of course) but the 15 year old is long lost to her iPad, iPhone and other tech. When we were little grounding used to be a punishment but through trying to protect her by not letting her play outside has meant her missing out on the things we did. Grounding to a child now means, thank god I can go upstairs and play on my games console, text my freinds rather than actually call for them and so on. I do love watching the younger ones play independantly of course with either myself or their father nearby but you only have to drive around the area to see how deserted the streets are in comparison to our own childhoods with those well thought out gifts like bikes and scooters ending up on Gumtree after they have been outgrown having only been played with once.

  2. Fiona jk42

    it’s far too easy to use technology as a babysitter to keep children occupied so you can get on with other things. When my husband & I look after our granddaughter, we try to limit screen time and do lots of other activities, such as acting out stories she likes, crafts, role playing and so on, often using quite simple homemade props.

  3. Perdita

    I’m really grateful I have a reasonable size garden. It means I can let free play happen. It’s so important especially as education is more controlled and target driven too. We need to make space for those little humans to develop!

    1. Mudpie Fridays

      I am the same, we weren’t thinking about children when we brought our house. Yet our outside space is really what has made the difference to the boys x

  4. Lorna Ledger

    I feel this is of course important…but I feel like it’s not a new concept? I feel like I did this growing up, and my daughter had it too, although we often think back to around 2007 when we got our first pc, she feels that almost straight away she spent less time outside or just playing….and I have to agree! My daughter was born in 2000 btw. So…if we now need to mindful aboutplaying, and also saying it’s ok for children to be free then good, and so be it….hope that all makes sense x

  5. Kate Williams

    I think it’s been harder for my son to engage in free play since he started school too – one of the things I noticed is that he talks about his friends playing games and he wants to be like them. This campaign is a great excuse to make sure that they’re still getting lots of play too.

  6. Franca Desjardins

    I agree that technology gets in the way of our kid’s entertainment. It is so easy to let them use their tablets while we are busy doing something else. I must admit that I am guilty of this too. I am trying to reduce the time they use their tablets now and trying to encourage more free play. They find so many different ways to entertain themselves which is wonderful and the way they use their imagination is fantastic. I remember doing treasure hunts when I was a child. I have not done that as much with my girls but after reading this, I think I fancy doing more! 😉

  7. Susan B

    Another lovely set of pics.

    I found your post to be thought-provoking. Free play needs to start young otherwise children expect parents to provide structure and claim they are bored if you don’t. I had never really thought about stifling their creativity and independence by providing structure on every play occasion and wonder why I didn’t just let them go in the garden as I did when I was a child.

    I look forward to reading your next post on the subject.

  8. Alex

    My husband is an early years educator and has always believed in the importance of free play. It’s something we try to build into our day to day routines and our daughter loves it. I try not to give her too much tech time and tend to set up whatever materials she asks for and leave her to it! It’s great for me too as I get a break!

  9. Sarah Ann

    This is a great campaign, free play is so important and it’s so easy for kids (as well as adults) to spend far too much time distracted by technology. I loved free play as a child, helped me develop creative skills and quite the imagination at times!

  10. natalie

    I always encourage play as much as possible. My girls are happiest at beach or a empty field and it is so great to watch their little imaginations. It is amazing to see how creative they can be. Great campaign!

  11. Emma

    Love this! I think as a parent in the modern age we can have the tendency to feel like we need to be constantly entertaining our children. That isn’t the case at all and we need to try to give them space so that they can learn from imaginative play. Getting outdoors and having adventures is part of that. Such a fab campaign.

  12. Amy

    I always let my daughter choose what she wants to play with (saves the tantrums) I offer different activities and let her choose and play how she wants, when she’s ready for me to join in she lets me know! I love watching her play and seeing her imagination develop.

  13. Laura - Dear Bear and Beany

    We’re big advocates of free play. My girls don’t have any tablets and the distractions that technology can bring. They choose their activities and how to amuse themselves. It good for them to learn to explore and find ways to entertain themselves x

  14. Kara

    I used to roam my village without a care in the world when I was younger, building dens in the park and playing with friends. It is just not the same anymore

  15. Wendy Tolhurst

    My children have all enjoyed free play and I think it helped them become more independent. It also helped with their imagination – as parents , we are often guilty for ensuring certain items are played with in a certain way – for example, we would encourage them to use a buggy to push dolls/teddies, whereas a child may prefer to use it to transport cars in.

  16. Kate Davies

    I completely agree, free play is very important for children to develop their imagination and figure things out for themselves. When we decorated my sons room I made sure that all his toys were in tubs that he can pull out himself and so decide what he wants to play with.

  17. Sensational Learning with Penguin

    We do free play too, although it might perhaps look a bit different for us, as our son is autistic and doesn’t do pretend play, as most kids do. I agree on the importance of offering time and opportunities to just roam and explore (even if it’s done in a more safety aware way than when we were kids…). #BloggersClubUK

  18. Helen aka Welsh Mum Writing

    We love free play. My son is at his happiest then. All this toys are in baskets either in his room or our living room (plus a box in our bedroom as he hangs out there too sometimes) so he can pull out whatever he wants. I try and swap them around every few weeks so he has some variety and keep things fresh – plus throw in some general things like loo rolls or material samples or bottles so he can improve. He is a fan of a tablet (don’t hate me) so we try to ensure that he plays creatively as much as possible, so lots of building toys and puzzles too. #BloggerClubUK

  19. Vicky

    I do love free play – I wish I could do more of it outside but it can be quite exhausting trying to keep them safe outdoors as well as maintaining your sanity hahaha #BloggerClubUK

  20. Sophie

    I am behind this 100%. As an Early Years and SEN teacher, we often push children into academics way too soon and forget the power of free play and experimentation. It’s only when children are at free play so they create and problem solve in ways that make sense to the. lovely post. #bloggerclubuk

  21. Sarah

    This is a great campaign – I’m guilty like many parents of perhaps relying on tablets and TV a bit too much but we do try and encourage free play as well, and have lots of open ended toys for the boys to play with. #BloggerClubUK

  22. Moonsomnia

    In an age where digital babysitters are common practice, free play is so important! Not just for younger children but for younger teens as well as they discover their own likes, dislikes and hobbies that they will often take into later life. I love this initiative 😀 My kids also love petit filous xx


  23. Kate Holmes

    I was new to the term free play too but certainly something my children have experienced all their lives – how else are their imaginations supposed to thrive. I loved it today when my son complained when someone on the telly said she wanted to direct her children’s goals and aspirations as he feels a child should have their own and I wholeheartedly agree. Here’s to free play and learning from it. #BloggerClubUK

  24. Sheila Reeves

    Hadn’t come across the term free play, but it’s what I did as a child, and what I let my two do as they were growing up – I don’t think I directed them in any of their play – I think it helps with their creativity and their problem-solving skills, used to love hearing thier chatter as to what was happening with a Duplo or later on a Lego build!

  25. Natalie Crossan

    Free play is so important, my daughter was always encouraged to roam around the beach (we’re quite lucky we live in brighton) so we’re always out and about doing something xx

  26. Anthea Holloway

    I love children having the freedom to play and use their inventive and creative skills. It is a pity in these days we have to be so careful and watch them so closely.

  27. Michelle Kellogg

    I used to think I had to be involved with every thing my kids did when they played. I was what some people call a helicopter mom, which I didn’t know was a thing at the time. But then I never go anything done and when I started going back to college, that was rough. By the time my youngest came around, I was all about the free play. Free play is great for kids to use their imaginations. Their imaginations are a great gift and they should be allowed to use it. It also frees up us parents who have dishes to wash and homework to do:) #bloggerclubuk

  28. Helena

    I’ve been wondering whether I needed to lay on back to back activities to keep my girls entertained so I like this approach. It’s also great to read that Public Health England recommends these yoghurts. #bloggerclubuk

  29. Aby

    Free play is fantastic, especially when you have a safe outside space to use. It’s so wonderful to just watch children explore the world through their own eyes. Great campaign.

  30. Karen Coombes

    I also find my son reaches for tech rather than just play, although the weather hasn’t helped here lately, it’s rained pretty much all year so far!
    I could probably encourage free play more

  31. Karen Coombes

    I also find my son reaches for tech rather than just play, although the weather hasn’t helped here lately, it’s rained pretty much all year so far!
    I could probably encourage free play more

  32. Jacinta

    I think technology comes in the way of free play to a large extent. It would be nice to be able to go back to days when we were younger and could play outside without any fear. I look forward to hearing about the boredom challenge.

    Thanks for taking part in the campaign. Commenting on behalf of BritMums.

  33. Alice

    I love the idea of free play, and try and encourage my children to indulge in it often, but I tend to feel guilty for just “leaving them to it” and to play by themselves (and because they often end up fighting as a result!). Nevertheless there’s such value in free play that I just need to keep reminding myself to not meddle!!


    My grandchildren love to get outdoors to play, they love treasure hunting for the pirates treasure or else they recreate their favourite shows

  35. Nyla

    Great concept, which I practice with my 2. I totally agree that free play is important. After all, I only had free play when I was growing up and I have lots of nice memories. Nowadays, it is harder, what with all these gadgets children have access to. My 2 enjoy the best of both worlds, although if they had a choice, I am sure they would stick to the tv and game consoles.#bloggerclubuk

  36. lisa bradburn

    Free play is so important and really does develop a kid’s learning. I love to watch my kids just playing. What I have noticed is that they seem to play and enter into the wonderful world of make believe so much better when I watch them from a corner of my eye, and they think I’m not watching or listening in on their play situation!!!

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