PYP Students exhibiting some of their play dolls at the lower school playground. Photo Courtesy of AIS Ghana

Unstructured play allows children to explore, research, and discover new things without any rules on guidelines.

Think of it as an exciting way of exploring how far a child’s imagination can go. It also allows observing adults to learn more about the child; what the child enjoys, the type of learner the child could be and so much more. Unstructured play enhances a child’s social skills, problem-solving abilities, creativity, and imagination.

The AIS PYP department allowed students to explore various ways of learning through unstructured play. Students brought in various adventurous games and toys ranging from monopoly boards, stuffed animals, puzzles, and more. Each form of play either simulated real-world scenarios, explored problem-solving, role play, or strategy. Children decided how and when to engage with the various objects and toys before them; a decision that was fascinating to watch. Here are a few types of play our students explored.



Simulated play by AIS PYP students through monopoly. Photo Courtesy of AIS Ghana

1. Simulation Play

Simulation games emulate the real world and allow children to make appropriate decisions as would in a real-life setting. Development monopoly, for instance, allows students to experience and learn about how power, negotiations, and transactions happen in the real world. They learn about the value of money, how to make and keep it, as well as how to place value on assets. Furthermore, it gives them a chance to understand how their choices affect the economies around them, and how this could lead to inequality.

2. Adventure Play

Adventure games aim to develop a student’s reasoning and problem-solving skills. It also enhances their cognitive abilities and the transfer of knowledge to unfamiliar situations. One way students explore adventure learning is through video games. While video games may be something often frowned upon, appropriate play helps deepen learning and understanding.


Simulated play by AIS PYP students through monopoly. Photo Courtesy of AIS Ghana

3. Role Play

One of the major benefits of role-playing is the development of communication and language in the student. Roleplay allows students to become self-aware, develop an understanding of others and themselves, practice behavior modeling. Roleplay may often introduce students to conflict and challenge them to devise ways of solving them peacefully. Students are often in a better position to understand each other after a role play.


4. Strategy Play

Strategy play allows students to participate in important decision-making that ultimately affects the outcome of a game. They also become aware of individual and group thinking. The fact that such games are won based on decisions made challenges students to become better and try harder with every new game. Strategy games include Ludo and chess.




RolePlay by AIS PYP students. Photo Courtesy of AIS Ghana



For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play – Penelope Leach, psychologist

While play can remain unstructured, parents and educators have an important role to play in ensuring they deliver the right toys and objects to students. Play allows students to explore things beyond the confines of the real world. Let’s work together to ensure they get the most out of each minute spent playing.



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