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Play is a child's work and it is how they learn to make sense of the world. Opportunities for different types of play can be provided to promote a child's development and learning.

  • Physical play - promotes the child's gross motor skills, energetic and health aspects

  • Manipulative play - promotes the child's fine motor skills

  • Discovery/Investigative play - encourages the child to experiment and problem solve

  • Creative/Expressive play - encourages the child to create and perform their own ideas and feelings

  • Imaginative/Role play - allows the child to pretend, act out situations and imitate others in their world

Social play develops gradually from simple to more complex forms of social interaction. Most children will pass through the following stages of play:

  • Solitary play - playing alone

  • Parallel play - playing alongside others but not with them

  • Looking on play - watching with interest as others play

  • Joining in play - playing with others by doing the same thing

  • Simple cooperative play - playing as part of a group, sharing an idea and resources

  • Complex cooperative play - playing as part of a group, agreeing different roles, ideas, rules and sanctions

Play provides many benefits for the developing child (physically, intellectually, emotionally, socially and understanding language:

  • Discover

  • Experiment

  • Create

  • Concentrate

  • Express ideas - develop speech

  • Develop muscles

  • Invent

  • Learn a range of new skills

  • Learn how other people behave

  • Role play

  • Share materials

  • Use imagination

  • Cooperate with others

  • Show off

  • Interact at various levels

  • Reduce stress

  • Divert aggression

A range of exciting and challenging resources for children to use will help their play develop and hold their interest. Play opportunities should be provided indoors and outdoors using their natural environment and natural resources.

Useful reading material:

"Planning Play and the Early Years"  -  Penny Tassoni and Karen Hucker
"Play in Early Childhood - From Birth to Six Years"  -  Mary Dorothy Sheridan and Jackie Harding (1999)
"Early Years Play and Learning: Developing"  -  Pat Broadhead (2004)
"Play and Learning in the Early Years"  -  Practical Pre-School Books