How to create a holiday feeling by letting your child play free. With #PetitsFilousPlayFree

How to create a holiday feeling by letting your child play free. With #PetitsFilousPlayFree

This post is part of the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign.

When did you last feel able to really let go? To forget those concerns about work, the state of the house, or those mountains of laundry? For me it was when we were on holiday in the Dordogne. We stayed in a relative’s wifi-free gîte, with nothing other than a swimming pool, the garden and a few colouring books to entertain us. And we played. By the end of the week I felt as though someone had taken all those tired, gnarly tangles in my brain, and rewired them into a smooth circuit.


playing in the Dordogne

That was the effect free play had on me – so I can see why experts say it’s critical for a child’s development.

Petits Filous have launched a campaign to highlight how important it is to let children play free, without a set structure, or goals set by adults. With the help of childcare expert Anita Cleare, they’ve challenged me and other BritMums bloggers to Let Them Be Bored – to hide the tablets, phones and other gadgets that help us through those moments when the kids are clamouring to be entertained. The idea is to let the children take the lead – using resources and space that we provide, but without us setting the agenda, or joining in unless asked. Petits Filous haven’t gone so far as to ask us to chuck out our TVs – but, reading between the lines, that might be helpful…..

“So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away”

(Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)


Putting play first

And I’m up for the challenge. It’s not always easy to go through the pain threshold of Gwen and Austin’s whines that they’re bored. Switching on the TV, or launching them into an activity is a quick fix, and it’s tempting to do that to stop the whinging. But when I’ve turned away from technology and – in the words of Play England – let them choose “what they want to do, how they want to do it and when they want to stop and try something else“, we’ve all ended up a lot happier for it. Ok, it’s difficult to trust that letting the kids play, with no structure, rules or iPad to help, will result in anything other than messy chaos, and possibly tears. But it works. As Anita Cleare points out, “even short bursts of playfulness can bring huge rewards in terms of building a relationship with your child, enjoying each other’s company and breaking down barriers.”

“Life is more fun if you play games”

(Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald)


And play is good for the whole family, not just the kids. The times when I’ve just let myself go along with the kids’ flow, it’s felt a bit like being back on holiday – or those childhood days, when I used to roam around on a Welsh mountain, playing hide and seek in the bracken, and looking out for winberries to pick. Play helps bring about the state of mindfulness that everyone agrees is beneficial: being present in the moment, and feeling that flow of pure enjoyment. This enjoyment has the knock-on effect of boosting physical development, creativity, brain development and social skills. What could be a bigger parenting priority than that?


Don’t sweat the small things

Petits Filous’ campaign video shows a girl jumping in a puddle – with the muddy water splashing all over her clothes, and even onto her face. For a moment she looks a little worried. Her clothes are dirty and wet. Will she get into trouble? But then the two adults leap into the puddle with her, jumping and laughing. The girl’s learned a valuable lesson about cause and effect. And the muddy water will all come out in the wash.

I love this message about priorities. What will the people in the video remember in ten years’ time? The muddy clothes that needed washing, or the fun they all had together?

Petits Filous; learning Cause & Effect

Play? Or a valuable lesson in Cause & Effect? We love how the joy of play also comes with so many learning opportunities for our little ones #petitsfilousplayfree

Posted by Petits Filous on Saturday, 13 January 2018

Play fuel

We had plenty of sunshine in the Dordogne. But everyday life in the UK isn’t like that. Nature can need a bit of a helping hand when it comes to giving children the vitamin D they need for healthy bones – especially in the winter months. Unlike some other yoghurts and fromages frais, Petits Filous is fortified with vitamin D. One pot contains a whopping 50% of the recommended daily allowance. My two have always enjoyed the delicious snack – I might even have snaffled the odd helping myself (less than 100 calories, you know…..). The little pots are perfectly sized for small hands and tummies. Petits Filous comes in pouches too, which don’t need spoons. They can safely be kept out of the fridge for up to five hours, making packing for a day of play all the more easy.


Look out over the next fortnight to see how we’re getting on with the ‘Let Them Be Bored‘ challenge. You can see us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Here’s hoping we come through the whinge barrier, intact and with a whole load of fun to show for it.

I’m working with Petits Filous and BritMums, promoting the #PetitsFilousPlayFree campaign about the importance of free play.

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Linking up with Plutonium Sox and Flying with a Baby
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  1. January 14, 2018 / 10:37 am

    I love this mentality so much! We could certainly do more (or rather less!) in our family to embrace it though.

    • Nell
      February 22, 2018 / 11:41 am

      I always feel this way, too!

  2. January 14, 2018 / 4:05 pm

    Oh I love this Nell – we really need to switch our wifi off more and just have fun! We play a lot of games together as a family but I’m looking forward to trying to make sure that our play is more child led in future.

    • Nell
      February 22, 2018 / 11:42 am

      The challenge has been great for getting me to think more about what we’re doing. And have fun!

  3. January 15, 2018 / 8:55 am

    Free play is so important! My lo loves it!

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:08 pm

      Mine do too!

  4. January 15, 2018 / 9:13 am

    You make such a good point about free play — not only is it great for our children but it can be so therapeutic for us as parents as well! Great tips.

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:09 pm

      Thanks, Jen x

  5. January 15, 2018 / 9:35 am

    I love this! I think we can sometimes fall into a rut where the kids expect ‘something exciting’ or technology to fill all their time. It seems to slowly creep up. It is hard few days of reigning things in but they’re so much happier for free play time!

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:10 pm

      I know – there is a bit of a pain threshold to work through, in my experience, but it’s so worth it.

  6. January 15, 2018 / 6:21 pm

    Don’t sweat the small things is such a big part of this message. I love it when my kids get covered in mud and jump in puddles – it means they’ve had a wonderful time! Great post for a brilliant campaign x

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:12 pm

      Thanks, Amy! x

  7. January 16, 2018 / 3:15 pm

    Love this Nell. We love beaches in the UK with nothing but a bucket and spade. Our boys can play for hours digging sand, making sand sculptures, making dams across streams. Its often the simple things in life that are the most fun #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:26 pm

      I agree! Helps save the pennies, too….

  8. January 16, 2018 / 4:55 pm

    This is a really good initiative. We find that our children used to struggle with ideas of how to play but are finding it much easier since we introduce screen-free time before bed. #familyrtraveltips

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:27 pm

      That’s a good idea.

  9. January 17, 2018 / 8:16 am

    Full disclosure here, I organised this project with Petits Filous, but I totally onboard with the idea of this campaign – to let kids be kids and leave them to their own devices and see what they do. It’s so telling that even the designer of the iPhone has highlighted how gets get addicted. Can’t wait to see how your two get on. x

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:27 pm

      It’s a great campaign!

  10. January 18, 2018 / 10:31 am

    Free Play is soooo important isn’t it. I am completely behind it and make sure my kids do this every day. We only allow ipads at the weekend and then only for a certain amount of time.

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:33 pm

      We try to limit ours, too. It all helps!

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:38 pm

      Thanks, Sam!

  11. January 18, 2018 / 12:40 pm

    Great post! it’s so important that kids get out into the fresh air and switch off tablets! that’s why holidays like camping are so great-there’s no wi-fi! #culturedkids

    • Nell
      January 18, 2018 / 2:57 pm

      Yes indeed. All that fresh air really helps get the playing off to a good start!

  12. January 20, 2018 / 4:30 pm

    Mine are always happiest getting absolutley filthy!!

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 7:12 pm

      🙂 great to hear x

  13. January 20, 2018 / 9:30 pm

    It was all free play at one time wasn’t it, and now it seems we can’t bear our kids to be bored when actually it helps them so much. I’m all for jumping in muddy puddles and not worrying about the laundry pile

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 7:13 pm

      Yes – it can be difficult, but it’s liberating once you take the plunge!

  14. January 20, 2018 / 10:25 pm

    What a brilliant campaign! Such a great idea. My eldest son (6.5) really wanted a games console for Christmas as “all” of his friends have one apparently. We succumbed in the end and bought him one but not before we had a long chat with him how he has the choice of what to do with his time and how much we love the fact that he enjoys building dens (in and out of the house!), making up adventures with his little brother and spending hours climbing trees. He has really surprised us, we haven’t had to remind him to put the games console down he has been really grown up about it so far and continued to play as normal. Long may it continue!

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 7:59 pm

      That’s really good to hear, Lisa. Just goes to show that if you trust them to do what’s right, they often will.

  15. January 21, 2018 / 8:06 am

    Ha ha I am totally with you on the whines, if I am honest Ive been taking the easy way out. Tis campaign has reminded me of the things we use to do. I am looking forward to seeing how you get on and I must admit I hadn’t thought about the benefits for us as parents too. Im off to find some camping for the Summer. x

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 8:00 pm

      Ooh, that sounds nice!

  16. January 21, 2018 / 9:42 pm

    I love this. My children play freely a lot more in the Summer. They spend hours on the trampoline, not really trampolining but it’s just their little space where they make up games and play together. I find it harder to persuade them to amuse themselves in the Winter. Thanks for linking up to #FamilyTravelTips

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 8:04 pm

      Our trampoline serves that purpose, too. A proper little den!

  17. January 22, 2018 / 6:34 am

    This is excellent!!! We actually have Screen Free Days at home. At first it was hard, but now I am better organised with craft kits, card games and board games. And… lots of play!!! Great article. #familytraveltips

    • Nell
      January 23, 2018 / 8:05 pm

      Thank you!

  18. January 30, 2018 / 6:37 pm

    We love Petit Filous, they are the perfect playtime treat. This campaign is SO important, children should have lots more time to free play.

    • Nell
      January 31, 2018 / 8:47 pm

      Yes, I’m enjoying being part of it.

  19. February 8, 2018 / 11:06 am

    Sometimes having no Wi-fi can be a blessing. We had the best time when we were in Wales without it. We played and had such a great family holiday.
    I look forward to hearing more about the Boredom Challenge.
    Commenting on behalf of BritMums

    • Nell
      February 9, 2018 / 11:45 am

      Yes, a good old digital detox works wonders!

  20. February 15, 2018 / 12:49 am

    I couldn’t agree more! Free play is so important! We should encourage our kids to get more free play more often! It is so good for their imagination and also for us parents as you suggested. I really like to do this with my girls as much as I can but I must admit that nowadays tend to be difficult with so much technology around. But when we do it at home, I get super surprised at how much imagination my girls can develop. It is fantastic! This is a great campaign! We also love Petits Filous at home, 😉 x

    • Nell
      February 15, 2018 / 8:33 am

      Yep – us too! x

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