Promoting Unstructured Play

Unstructured play happens when children follow their instincts, ideas, and interests without an imposed outcome. It may include challenging forms of play, and provides opportunities for exploring boundaries that allow children to determine their own limits in a variety of natural and built environments. Adults may facilitate unstructured play but not prescribe it. The benefits associated with active outdoor play, a component of unstructured play, have been described in the 2018 position statement by ParticipACTION and are supported by the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health.

Unstructured play provides a variety of benefits for child health and well-being:

•    Physical health and gross motor skills
•    Mental and emotional health
•    Social health and team work
•    Learning and attention at school
•    Resiliency and risk management skills

The Canadian Public Health Association has created infographics to share with parents/caregivers that highlight the research about the benefits of unstructured play for healthy child development. 

Source: Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). Children’s Unstructured Play Position Statement. March 2019. Available at