Posts written by paulami

Unstructured Play

Our Philosophy



ARTFUL KIDS has made a conscious decision to develop and structure the classes as ‘Unstructured Play’. We feel that in todays society, globally as well as in Hong Kong, parents are put under pressure to put their children into many activities that consistently have teacher led activities, these tend to also be time driven.

We do see a need for this, however it’s essential to balance out the different types of activitie our children are exposed to.

Commonly our children, from a really young age are over-scheduled, with little time to ‘Play’.
More and more evidence is proving that ‘Play’ is an integral part of a childs’ development, and lack of it can have a detrimental effects.

We understand that in Hong Kong, very few have back gardens or other outdoor areas that allow our children to ‘ just play’. Our studio has been carefully designed to encourage children to take ownership of their own ‘Play’. They will have free choice in a creative and artistic environment, where they can Paint, Draw, Collage all on small and large scale. They can also play with water and in sand (we have a sandpit). They decide what they play with, how long for and if they want to on their own or in groups.
Children can make these decisions from a very young age; we just need to give them the choice and the opportunity to do so. You get the opportunity to sit, relax, chat and watch your child Play and Create.

As Education Coach Anoo Padte says, “Young children work hard at play. Play has been shown to lay down the foundational architecture of the brain that is essential to learning language, to becoming a good reader, a proficient mathematician, to having a rich vocabulary and to developing the love of learning, a quality considered most critical for longer term, sustained interest in learning”.

She continues, “Teachers have a strong but subtle role to play in such play-oriented classrooms.
Teachers carefully craft the environment for such play. They set out provocations in the form of openended, multi-use materials based on their close understanding of children’s learning patterns, emerging questions, explorations and interests. In such classrooms, teachers observe children. They are researchers of children. They know their developmental needs and they respond to their questions.

They craft an intentional curriculum that is centered on and that emerges from children’s play”. Both the English and Mandarin ‘classes’ run as ‘Unstructured’, with the teacher talking (in English or Mandarin) to the children.

Why is unstructured play so important?

  • Play is important to healthy development of the brain;
  • Undirected play helps children learn how to work collaboratively, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and learn self-advocacy skills;
  • When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue;
  • When Play is controlled by adults – such as in organized sports – children have to follow to adult rules and concerns (like winning) and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills.
  • Play offers parents a wonderful opportunity to engage fully with their children;
  • Play and unscheduled time that allows for peer interactions is an important component of social emotional learning; and
  • Child-driven, creative play protects against the effects of pressure and stress.
  • Play encourages self expression and allows children to work through difficult emotions. Children who are able to initiate and enjoy self directed play are also more likely to be confident and sure of themselves.

Here are some sites accessing some interesting articles on the importance of Unstructured Play.

What Children Learn

  • From simple, enjoyable play, children learn a wide range of skills, beginning with motor skills and hand-eye coordination from using a paint brush, pens or pencils, pouring water and fashioning items in the sand. Painting and drawing help with the dexterity of the child, as well as selection process what colour, technique, texture to use, how mark-making effects the painting. They start to learn science from the behavior of water when it is poured from one container to another and from floating and sinking objects. Sand play can help with counting and measurement skills, shape comparison, and “less” and “more” concepts.


  • While your child is playing using paint, pencils, collage, water and sand, they are (subconsciously) learning early maths and science concepts; for example, how colours are made when mixed with other colours or how many cups of water to fill another object. As we talk, or their friends talk to them, each child is improving their knowledge and understanding as well as their vocabulary and communication skills.
  • As the behavior of materials change, the children observe, play and talk about what is happening. Your child’s curiosity will make teaching easier the more they ‘play’.

Social Skills

  • Children learn social skills from paint, drawing, sand and water play. These activities encourage and erequires cooperation and sharing even as role playing stimulates the imagination. Imaginative water play can include teaching concepts of care and hygiene by bathing a doll in a basin.


  • Art, sand and water play stimulate creativity. Let your child experiment and explore how to make shapes in paint, with pencils, with collage, with sand moulds and patterns in the sand or in the water. These elements allow your children to play and have fun, whilst learning, exploring, experimenting, know otherwise as Creating.

To Recap

  • The development of creativity, imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength
  • The ability to engage, interact with and manipulate the surrounding world
  • The opportunity to conquer fears and practice adult roles
  • The ability to develop self-confidence and resiliency
  • The chance to work in groups, share, negotiate, resolve conflicts and learn self-advocacy
  • The opportunity to build healthy, active, coordinated bodies