The Importance of Play

Toddler playing

Few things are as satisfying as watching your little one immersed in his own world of wonder. Not only is playtime probably the best part of childhood, but it also plays an important role in children’s emotional and cognitive development.  Play is an opportunity to learn, to build self confidence and develop physical and emotional skills.

Catch our video on Play vs Activities here. 

Structured vs Unstructured Play

Structured play is organised, happens at a fixed time and is often led by a grown-up. Examples of structured play include activities like

  • Storytelling
  • Specific games like tag or pin the tail on the donkey
  • Putting puzzles together
  • Organized sports
  • Following directions to assemble a toy

Learn about the caregiver’s role in play here.

Unstructured play (also known as free play) is open ended play with unlimited possibilities. It usually depends on what your child is interested in and it allows your child to use his/her imagination and move at their own pace. Examples of unstructured play include activities like

  • Creative play alone or with others including artistic or musical games
  • Imaginative games like building forts or dressing up or playing make-believe
  • Exploring new play spaces like parks, cupboards, backyards etc
  • Colouring, drawing or painting on blank paper
  • Singing silly songs
  • Role-playing or even just playing with cars, toys, dolls and trucks.

Learn more about open-ended vs closed-ended toys here.

Is there a right way to play? Watch our video to learn more.

The role of play in your child’s development

Social and emotional development:

Play teaches communication skills (both verbal and non-verbal), negotiating, and experiencing other’s different points of view by working through conflicts about space or rules. It also increases their social competence and emotional maturity.

Creative development:

Play teaches problem solving, stimulates curiosity and creativity, encourages better performances with school tasks, and allows for alternative responses to different situations.

Physical development:

Play contributes to the development of a child’s fine and gross motor skills. It teaches them body awareness and how to actively use their bodies. It helps to build and maintain energy and to build and strengthen their muscles and joints.

Play also allows parents to form special bonds with their children thereby growing and enhancing the relationship. So please, go forth and play with your kids! The experts encourage it.




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Christine Klynhans is a midwife and lactation consultant with a firm believe that gentle parenting can change the world. She has worked in midwifery since competing her B.Cur nursing degree in 2004, and has a special passion for education and for writing. She currently works in a well-baby clinic and give antenatal classes and breastfeeding support. She enjoys working with parents of babies and toddlers, aiming to help them find gentle solutions to their parenting problems and assisting them in incorporating healthy habits and natural health alternatives into their daily lives.

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