Why Is Play Important In Child Development?

Teaching students have given me many insights into child development. One insight is the importance of play. It has many implications on a child’s development. To share more with parents, I decided to write this article to explain about play and best ways to implement play in a child’s development.

Why is play important in child development? Play helps children learn about their environment. Through play, children picks up problem solving skills and an ability to think flexibly. With play, children are placed in situations that challenges their emotions. This helps children learn to cope with emotions of failure and success.

Play can affect many aspects of child development. The most important child development roles will be discussed below. Lastly, read on to learn about the best ways you can implement play to achieve positive child growth. 

Play and child development

Child development involves the growth of a child’s physical and mental abilities. These abilities can be developed with play, an all-rounded approach to achieve these developmental objectives. 

Take for example, the simple play of running about. Running will help develop your child’s physical ability through muscular growth, and mental ability of sensory processing. 

Other forms of play, such as games will be more mental developmental focus. In this type of play, problem solving and strategic thinking skills will be developed.

With play, there is the added advantage of experiencing fun and happiness. Having fun and feeling happy is as important in encouraging a child’s positive development of mental health.

Types of play: Structured vs Unstructured

Play can be organized into “Structured” and “Unstructured” play. These two types of play perform equally important roles in child development. Involving your child in both types of play is critical to a holistic child development. 

Structured play involves usually an adult setting the direction of play. The direction of play lays out a specific task, objectives, or steps for the child to reach. This guides the child to a desired learning outcome for the play. 

In structured play, the child’s physical and cognitive developments are the focus. For example, structured play can be an adult guiding the child in solving a jigsaw puzzle. In other instances, structured play can be a sport game, such as baseball, which involves group play among children under the supervision of an adult. From both examples, you can see that the play will involve a set of instructions or rules to follow by.

The other type of play, unstructured play can be thought of as the opposite of structured play. It contrast starkly as it does not involve a specific set of instructions or rules determined by an adult.

The purpose of unstructured play is to stimulate a child’s creativity and flexibility in solving problems. For example, an unstructured play can be a group of children developing their own imaginary games with their own rules. 

As unstructured play is not guided under the supervision of an adult, it encourages children to explore their emotion towards the unknown and uncertainty. This can involve children facing unexpected challenges and learning to solve it themselves.

Nevertheless, both types of play are important for healthy child development. Structured play provides adult the chance to provide and develop skills within children. With skills and understandings, children can feel more confident in tackling unexpected challenges during unstructured play. Therefore, parents or educators can utilize both types of play to achieve synergistic child development outcomes.

By involving both structured and unstructured play in your child’s development, you give your child a holistic learning and growth experience.

Ways to implement play

To implement play successfully in your child’s development, you have to learn the skill of observation and patience. Observe for your child’s natural interests. At times, you might want to initiate new activities to expose your child to new interest. Other times, you might sit back patiently and allow your child to explore play on their own.

From your observation of your child’s interests, you can set up the types of play preferred. For example, if you observe your child has a tendency to prefer mental games, you can provide your child with new puzzles to solve.

During your time with your child, ask questions about the play experience and fun times. These questioning will provide you with information on how to better initiate play for your child’s growth.

Toys can be a simple tool to help you implement play. It is exceptionally effective to initiate your child involvement in new play. Different toys will engage your child in different types of play. The toy acts as an easy way to implement a new form of play. Furthermore the toy is a physical item, which helps increase the play interactivity.

Below we will discuss more about toys and how each toy can help your child get into different types of play.

Different types of toys

Building toys

Examples: Lego, wooden blocks

Building toys engage your child’s creativity and planning. It helps your child to explore the flexibility of thinking.

Pretend toys

Examples: Stuff toys, dollhouse, dolls

Pretend toys engage your child’s social skills, especially empathy. This allows them to role-play and explore different emotions without being involved directly. It helps your child with understanding of others.

Creative toys

Examples: Arts and crafts, playdough

Creative toys engage your child’s artistic creativity. It is a good way for your child to express their ideas and emotions.

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child care, Child development, learning, Parenting


Casual writer on engaging education topics.

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