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The Importance of Play


Below is a resource from Pathways.org that goes over the importance of play and the different types of play that is important for development.


Play: Know the Basics

Why does play matter?

  • Helps children learn about themselves and the world around them

  • Allows them to explore different interests and passions

  • Encourages interactions, sharing, and socialization to help develop social-emotional skills

  • Develops important life skills


What is play?

Play is “any spontaneous or organized activity that provides enjoyment, entertainment, amusement or diversion.” In simpler terms, it’s a time when we are:

  • Having fun

  • Being creative and spontaneous

  • Creating original ideas and acting on them

  • Engaged and concentrated


When does baby begin to play?

Baby can play at any age! Play is a great way to promote motor, sensory,communication and social-emotional development—so it can start as soon as baby comes home. Of course, play will look different as they age, but here’s a look at early play with baby.


As your little one becomes a toddler, they begin to bring more communication and interaction into their play. As their communication skills get better, they will be able to follow directions while they play games. They will also use their motor skills to do more physical activities and play with toys, which helps with learning important social skills like sharing.


How often should my child play?

Think of play as a prescription from a doctor. It’s something they need every day and should be a balance of structured and unstructured play.


Structured play requires a child to follow directions or rules, and is guided by an adult. This could include board games, puzzles, and organized classes like dance or art, or team sports like soccer.


Unstructured play allows for children to do whatever interests them, without as many directions or guides. Playing on the jungle gym, playing dress up, and exploring the outdoors are all examples of unstructured play. The possibilities are endless!


Toddlers should spend at least one hour a day in free, unstructured play, and at least thirty minutes engaged in active, adult-led, structured play. Older children need even more time to play each day.


What skills does play develop?

  • Knowing what to do when no one is directing you

  • Problem solving

  • Creativity and imagination

  • Interacting with others and negotiating

  • Resilience

  • Flexibility and adaptability

  • Willingness to take risks and try new things

  • Processing emotions

  • Understanding social situations

  • Discovering interests

  • Building confidence




The Do's and Don'ts of Play

During playtime, do:

  • Let your child direct their play

  • Play with your child in different ways

  • Ask your child questions

  • Encourage playing with others

  • Be silly!

  • Get outside

During playtime, don't:

  • Overly direct your child's play

  • Let your child over-direct

  • Let phone or other screens distract

  • Force activities on your kids







Article created by:

The importance of play for Development: Free Resources. Pathways.org. (2022, May 26). Retrieved from https://pathways.org/topics-of-development/play/

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