Play is a joyous part of childhood, but it's also about far more than simple fun - it's central to child development. It’s how children grow physically and mentally, learn about who they are and start to understand the world around them.
So it should come as no surprise to learn that even the United Nations recognises childhood play as a human right. When you consider its implications, it's crucial for parents to truly recognise the importance of play, and encourage their little ones to have fun every day.
What Play Offers your Child
The American Academy of Paediatrics released a comprehensive report on the power of play, recognising that it helps children “learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts and to learn self-advocacy”.
Play builds dexterity and physical strength, and encourages children to develop social, language and communication skills. Children learn valuable lessons through play, such as why they need to concentrate on certain tasks, and why taking turns and sharing toys with friends and siblings is important for strong and trustworthy relationships. This not only builds the child’s self-confidence, but helps regulate their behaviour and emotions.
Relationships are built from a young age through play. It helps a child foster attachments to parents, siblings, friends and teachers.
The Different Types of Play
The importance of play in child growth and development isn’t restricted to a one-size-fits-all approach. On the contrary, experts believe there should be a broader focus on both structured and unstructured play, as each offers its own benefits for child development.
Unstructured play, for example, is a chance for children to explore at their own leisure. In essence, this is play that simply ‘happens’. The child is able to use their imagination and focus on whatever takes their interest.
Some examples of unstructured play include free time with toys like building blocks and shape sorters (which aid cognitive development), ‘imagination games’ with friends using boxes or blankets, or playing make-believe with toys on their own. Young children are naturally drawn to toys that capture their attention, whether that’s a plush animal that ignites their imaginations, colourful blocks for visual stimulation and cognitive development, or musical toys that captivate them with different sounds.
Exploring new areas, especially in parks and playgrounds, and creative endeavours such as art can all be spur-of-the-moment and unstructured activities.
Structured play is more formal and often governed by an adult. Taking place at a set time and place, this type of play is typically used for water familiarisation, storytelling sessions, and dance or music classes.
Supporting your Child's Development Journey
The type of play your child engages with will be fluid and will evolve over the months and years. Choosing toys and activities that match your little one’s interests as they grow can enhance their development journey. Check out our store for a range of toys to aid your child's development.