The Importance Of Play

Why play?

Play is a child’s ‘work’. It is through play that a child learns about themselves and the world around them. Play is essential to a child’s development. It fosters their physical, social, emotional and cognitive development. Play:

Playing together with your child:

  • Creates a special bond.
  • Helps them solve problems and test new ideas.
  • Uses their imagination.
  • Increases their vocabulary.
  • Encourages them to communicate their thoughts and feelings.
  • Helps them to feel good about themselves.

Give your child:

  • Room to play indoors and outdoors. They need to run, jump and climb.
  • Opportunities to touch objects with different textures, squish their hands in mud, sand, water and play-dough.
  • A chance to build things with blocks and boxes, and make forts with blankets and pillows.
  • Freedom to pretend and be creative. Give them a box of old clothes for dress-up and everyday items to help them role play to explore and express their feelings.
  • A chance to spend time on quiet activities that develop their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and attention spans. Activities like reading, colouring, drawing, cutting, gluing, painting and doing puzzles.
  • Time to interact with you and others while playing.
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Playing with others:

Toddlers:

  • Toddlers want you to be near them while they play. They need the constant reassurance of your love and support while they test new boundaries of being independent.
  • Toddlers enjoy playing alongside other children rather than interacting with them. They enjoy observing and copying the children they are playing near.
  • Although they are minimally interacting with other toddlers, they are learning from them. This is the beginning stage of cooperative play.
  • Conflicts over sharing may arise. You will need to be close at hand to guide your toddler in learning this new skill.

Preschoolers:

  • Preschoolers are becoming more sociable. They are learning to share, take turns and play games with other children.
  • Preschoolers love using their imaginations and enjoy make believe or pretend play with other children.
  • Preschoolers are able to express feelings and problem-solve while playing with others at this stage. They also have a much longer attention span and are able to play with others for longer periods of time.
  • Conflicts are still likely to arise but a parent can guide a child in solving the conflict with their playmate.
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  • Follow your child’s lead. Let them set the direction and use their ideas.
  • Ensure the play is age appropriate – give your child time to learn.
  • Let them make the rules – it gives them a sense of independence and competence.
  • Praise and encourage your child’s ideas – don’t criticize or correct their play.
  • Engage in role-play and make-believe games.
  • Provide descriptive comments instead of asking questions, e.g. “You put the yellow dog in the truck” instead of “What colour is the dog? Where is the dog?”
  • Promote independent problem-solving – don’t help out too much.
  • Reward quiet play with attention to encourage that behaviour

Most of all: Remember to laugh and have fun everyday!!

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Suggested web links:

Multilingual resources:

  • Why Play? (external link)
    A series of brochures (available in 13 languages) offering information to parents and caregivers on play and child development.
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