Allowing children to engage in unstructured play or not is a question right up there with going green or not and iOS versus Android. It’s really quite a tough call.
Basically this is when you leave your children up to their own devices and let them play in whichever way they want to. There are a few things about this type of play you should be aware of if you ever decide to let it happen in your home. This type of play usually involves furniture being moved around and actually could involve the moving of the contents of an entire cupboard or two as well, it takes time to execute and you have to let it run its course naturally or there will probably be tears when you end it (ok so there will probably be tears anyway) and finally when the children are done playing you’ll have to make a call about whether to clean up the mess or simply sell the house as is and move somewhere tidy.
On the plus side though, you probably wouldn’t let it happen more than once if there wasn’t a huge plus side, your children will literally be out of sight for an extended period of time. You could use that time to have a nap, to watch a television program that doesn’t include any themed protagonists like Dinosaurs with wheels instead of legs or colorful characters with televisions where abdomens should be, to entertain a guest or even to make a dent in the contents of the liquor cabinet if you so desired. Basically all the stuff people without children do, just for a limited period of time.
Still, there have been many nights when we’ve put our eldest to bed only by first using the snow-plough method to move toys, clothes, blankets and furniture aside to make a path from the door to his bed. Also, somehow there is always a biscuit or half-eaten piece of fruit hiding under or inside a toy (the favorite for this sort of thing at the moment is the green garbage truck). Every now and again we’ve found the energy to make a stab at cleanup before we put him to bed but by the time he goes down for sleep we’re too tired to read him a story which inevitably results in a discussion about why a story was not forthcoming. I suspect it would probably be easier to convince honey bees to start producing low G.I honey than to convince our son that tonight, just tonight, we don’t need to have a story.
So basically it’s swings and roundabouts as far as unstructured play goes. You win a little time (and the child gets to run amok for a bit) and you lose a little sanity when you have to clean up. You may also find yourself wishing you could glue everything in the house to the floor so that it cannot be moved around, including the children – if you go down this road though I suggest you use something a little less permanent than superglue unless you want to wake up one morning with your child’s hand glued to the cat.