The Advantages & Disadvantages of Structured Play

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Structured play is often adult-led and can teach children new skills. Organised group activities such as "Mother, May I" and team sports are examples of structured play, as is teaching a child a new play task such as building a house from blocks.

While structured play offers positive benefits to children, there are also some disadvantages to structured play.

Advantage: New Ideas

Providing structured play opportunities allows you to introduce your child to new ideas and types of play, explains developmental psychologist Judith Hudson on the Baby Center website. For older children, structured play introduces them to many activities and sports, and provides an opportunity to learn new skills in a fun setting, according to the Kids Health website.

Advantage: Social Interaction

Social skills are developed and fostered through structured play, notes the Kids Health website. Children enrolled in structured activities and sports programs are provided with opportunities to learn self-discipline, sportsmanship, conflict resolution and other social skills. For younger children, structured play provides an opportunity for parents and classmates to model appropriate behaviours through simple games such as "Duck, Duck Goose" or "Red Light, Green Light," according to the Kids Health website.

Disadvantage: Less Unstructured Play

Providing too much structured play eliminates time for free, child-centred play, states an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report. The decrease in time allotted for free play interferes in the developmental benefits of unstructured play such as creativity, imagination, decision-making and the development of overall emotional, cognitive and physical strength, according to the AAP.

Disadvantage: Stress

Overscheduling structured play often leads to a child developing stress and anxiety, as well as depression on occasion, according to the AAP. Children with busy structured play schedules may fall behind at school, complain of headaches or stomachaches and feel tired frequently, notes the Kids Heath website. In addition, families who feel children must be involved in many activities often feel the stress and exhaustion of keeping up with the structured schedule.