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Why “Play” is Crucial to Your Child’s Development

“Play is more than just fun for babies and children. It’s how they learn, and how they work out who they are, how the world works and where they fit into it.” ~Raising Children Network 

Simply put, Play is your child’s job.

Early Childhood Educators are trained in the “art of play” for a reason. Research has shown how important it truly is.

What exactly is this “play” we speak of?

Defining ‘play’

While there is no one definition of play, there are a number of agreed characteristics that describe play. Play can be described as:

  • pleasurable-play is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. Play sometimes includes frustrations, challenges and fears; however enjoyment is a key feature
  • symbolic-play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if?’ quality. The play has meaning to the player that is often not evident to the educator
  • active-play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or the environment
  • voluntary-play is freely chosen. However, players can also be invited or prompted to play
  • process oriented-play is a means unto itself and players may not have an end or goal in sight
  • self motivating-play is considered its own reward to the player (Shipley, 2008).

Once you have decided what play means to you, you should next ask yourself, why play-based learning? What is it about play that makes it so important? Play has a long and detailed research history that dates back to the work of Locke and Rosseau.

Research and evidence all point to the role of play in children’s development and learning across cultures (Shipley, 2008). Many believe that it is impossible to disentangle children’s play, learning and development. ~EarlyChildhood Australia 

MHC Early Childhood Solutions put it this way,


So, the next time your little one is off in his or her imaginary world, just remember, it’s not “just play.” You may even want to join them.

More Resources On The Importance of Play

UC Davis Children’s Hospital, Children Learn Through Play 

naeyc for Families, 10 Things Every Parent Should Know About Play 

And, of course…

Institute of Play, teaching the importance of play for all ages including us adults!


Freelance Blogger at
Lori Hil is a freelance blogger and content curator with an AAS in Early Childhood Education. She now gets to combine her love of writing and teaching through the written word. You can find her all around the web, but especially enjoying the freelance life at
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