How playing can help development

What is play? 

Free and unstructured play is important as it allows children to learn about the world, children are given the opportunity to explore, imagine and make decisions. It is something that is often meaningless but brings joy as children can fully express themselves with no boundaries. The type and purpose of play evolves over time as children get older.

How does play support the child’s development and learning? 

Knowing how to play can facilitate development in several areas such as gross/fine motor skills, language/social development. 

1. Physical development: 

Active play is essential for children's physical development. It can assist children with developing their gross-motor skills, fine motor skills, motor planning, coordination, and balance. Active play is a wonderful way to increase physical activity levels in children. Most physical activity guidelines recommend that children perform at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per day. Regular physical activity has been shown to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and metabolic health as well as have positive impacts on cognitive and mental health.

2. Social and emotional development 

Playing with others can help develop social and emotional skills as they are asked to listen, pay attention, and share play experiences. This can help a child explore their feelings, develop negotiation skills (compromising when the rules of the game do not benefit them), and learn how to express themselves in a productive manner.

3. Language development 

When children are exposed to diverse types of play, they are exposed to distinct types of language that can help facilitate the development of language. Playing also provides a wonderful and safe place to practice the language skills they have learnt and expand their vocabulary. For example, vocabulary when playing with a doll house versus the language used when playing outside at the backyard is vastly different. When interacting with adults during play children are more likely to refine their speech sound imprecisions (saying ‘wed’ instead of ‘red’) as they can hear the accurate pronunciations from adults. Playing with other peers also promotes socialisation which is fundamental in acquiring and facilitating language development.

4. Cognitive development 

Play can also positively impact cognitive processing and intellectual development. It can help develop critical thinking skills, reinforce memory, understand cause, and effect, and help children explore the world around them. Play also encourages imagination, curiosity, and exploration.

5. Fine motor development 

Fine motor skills are essential for children to participate in everyday activities. Through play, there are many ways children can improve their fine-motor skills. Examples of fun activities that can improve kids fine-motor skills include play dough, puzzles, painting, colouring, blocks, sand play, and beading.

Christmas play inspiration!

1. Imaginative play 

  • pretending to be an elf in Santa’s factory
  • pretending to be Mr/Mrs Claus themselves 

Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to create fun experiences and share ideas with peers. Through Imaginative play children are given the opportunity to pretend to be someone else, giving them the confidence and opportunity to use skills that they have heard other adults or peers use in everyday situations.  

Get creative and let the children dress up as Mr/Mrs Claus or the elves.

2. Outdoor play

  •  Santa delivering presents  

Playing outside gives children the opportunity to explore and investigate the environment they are in. Children are exposed to several types of sensory stimulation (sight, smell, hearing, or feeling), which will provide the basis for asking questions.  

For example, an obstacle course can be created. Obstacles can be created using furniture but make sure that an adult is constantly supervising the children so that no one gets injured. 

Here is an example of an outdoor obstacle course set up at CPL's Ballina service:

Send in your pics of your favourite playtime activity, we would love to see them!

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Child sitting in a play room