The Importance Of Play In A Child’s Development

Where does play fit into a child’s development?  From a young age children need the freedom that play provides them.  Through the freedom of play, children learn about themselves, others and the world around them.  Play helps develop self-concepts and a sense of “who I am” and “what I can do.”  At a young age, play is integral in a child’s cognitive, emotional and physical development. Each child learns and grows through play.  Through play children learn confidence, learn to set goals and to work towards them.  This in turn teaches them the value of hard work and practice.

From the ages of 2-6 it is important that gross motor skills and fine motor skills be developed.  Movement involved in play provides a way to explore the environment and helps children learn how to solve problems as they learn what they are and aren’t capable of.  Gross motor in play includes throwing, catching, kicking and running.  As well fine motor skills should be developed in play through drawing, painting and building with blocks.
The three main types of play are:

  • Solitary play

– Puzzles – which help build attention span, thinking before acting and staying focussed

– Dress up and drawing – which encourages imagination and creativity

  • Parallel play

– Arts and crafts

-Playing with dolls

-Building blocks

  • Cooperative play – encourages getting along with others, cooperation, sharing and understanding different points of views

– Playing house


-Tea party


-Table games – which teach how to follow rules and take initiative

These types of play occur at different ages and stages and help children develop knowledge, social skills and motor skills.  Given the freedom that play allows children, it also enables them to express their feelings appropriately.  Play needs to be allowed, fostered and encouraged.  Therefore, when a child enters grade one they will be ready to learn; enjoying all the skills that will allow them to do so.  A world centered on play provides the base for everything which is to be learned.

Susan Lieberman is in private practice in Toronto as a family therapist and public speaker. For more information call (416) 512-6356.

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