The value of free play

“The educational value of schleich® figurines lies in their ability to spark free play, thus making a positive contribution to children’s development. In the study, 89% of parents agreed that schleich® toys boosts their children’s imagination. That is very important to us.”  

Stefan De Loecker, CEO Schleich GmbH 

Free play gives children important skills for the future

Did you know, that the horse can take off and fly and the lion occasionally hosts a tea party on the rug?  

A glimpse into the boundless imagination of children shows that absolutely anything is possible. Free play describes this form of play without boundaries or instructions, with endless possibilities. Free play is a natural and basic need shared by all children, and it contributes to their development in many ways. 

To get to the bottom of the importance of free play, we conducted a study with over 4,000 parents together with the University of Koblenz. The results show: 84% of parents would like their children to spend most of their playtime engaged in free play. They rate schleich® play figurines as particularly suitable for this type of play: 75% of children use them (very) frequently in their free play.  

The findings of our study

Free play fosters a wide range of skills

Wiebke Waburg, Professor of Pedagogy at the University of Koblenz explains: “Free play supports children’s development and teaches them important skills for their future, such as creativity, problem-solving and self-confidence.” 

Our study shows that parents agree with this. 97% of parents firmly believe that free play strengthens their children’s imagination and creativity. As many as 91% also believe that it fosters their ability to develop ideas independently. Parents further assume that during free play, children learn to keep themselves occupied (89%), trust in their own abilities (78%) and empathise with others (74%).

The time for free play decreases

Who doesn't recognize it: from kindergarten to soccer or flute class, homework and doctor's appointments after school – this is what everyday life usually looks like for children today. In a typical week, only 25% of children have more than three hours a day available for free play. In the past, things were different. 65% of mothers and fathers say that they had more free time in childhood.

First the toy, then the idea

Most stories are inspired by whatever happens to be available. This was confirmed by 69% of parents. Toys that encourage creativity are the key here. Because they allow your children to fully unleash their imagination.schleich® play figurines are well suited for this and foster children’s imagination, say 89% of parents.It makes no difference whether the figurines are realistic animals or imaginary creatures. The themes in free play range from family topics to everyday situations and fictional worlds. However, children most frequently play with animals and nature (77%).  


Our study shows:time for free play is precious. It is well worth setting aside free time for this form of play, as there are enormous positive effects for your children. Supporting this important type of play is a matter of the heart for us and we are convinced that schleich® figurines are story starters and inspiration for ever new, colorful and creative stories.

Are you looking for creative ideas with our play figurines? Then we have a few tips for you here:

Here are three tips on how you can gently encourage free play:

Ask your children to build a farm, asavannahor a jungle. Asmall themedimpulse can help to get them into free play.Later, the kids can tell you about their stories.

Integrate the schleich® figurines into your everyday life. The cow helps with brushing teeth, the tiger listens while practicing the flute and the llama unicorn eats lunch with you. This way, children can easily switch from everyday activities tofreeplay.

After school or kindergarten, why not let your children tell the polar bear or elephant about their day? The schleich® animals are wonderful listeners andperhaps apretend play will develop out of it.

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