How Is Play Important for Child Development?

Play may seem useless to most adults and something only childish people would invest time on, but play is one of the ways that children learn. By playing, the child is exposed to a variety of emotions, develops physical skills, and learns how to process the information around them.

How Does Play Benefit the Child?

It may seem mundane to adults, but kids imitate what they see and practice the skills they have learned through playing. You expose them to a world filled with information and provide a fun way to learn everything they need through play.

Let’s get specific, shall we?

Motor skills

Motor skills are improved as they discover what happens when they try to imitate what they see you do. From infancy, the baby’s motor skills are almost non-existent, and their movements are involuntary. As you play tickles and stretches, you help them recognize sensations and feelings.

As they grow bigger, they start to imitate your movements. Playing the same repetitive physical activity means they have more chances to see, mimic and practice those movements. This aids in the physical development of muscles and bone structure.

Social development

Social skills are developed as they interact with those they are playing with. As they learn to interact, they learn to recognize social constructs like family, neighbors, friends, and the appropriate behavior towards them. They also start to learn rules, communication, and how to show emotions.

Communication skills

Language skills start to develop as they try to express what they want, what they need, and if they are hurt during play. This is due to the communication that takes place during play. They may not be complete sentences or actual words, but they start to communicate nonetheless.

Emotional Development

And the best benefit is that they are having fun while they are developing their skills. There may be times that the play gets scary, intense, dull, sad, or disappointing. Children will go through all these emotions through playing, and they will start to convey these feelings one way or another.

Cognitive skills

Cognitive development takes play during play as the child explores all that is happening around him and processes the information. The child learns cause and effect through playing and starts to be self-aware.

Intellectual development

Children will start to develop critical thinking and would want to understand how things work through playing with them. You may have noticed that, while playing, kids would randomly stop and ask why. This is because their cognitive processing has just come up with something while playing, and they need to learn about this before the curiosity goes away.

Independent play

Independent or solitary play is a time when your baby has some much-needed alone time, and it’s also an important stage in child development. Solitary play teaches children how to entertain themselves and pave the way for their future independence. Through this, they learn essential skills like exploring the world around them or figuring out tasks independently. Some children may start playing this way at age 0–2 years old before interacting with other kids. For big kids, solitary play can still be valuable if only briefly throughout the day so that they get ample practice socializing too!

Make sure that your child can play to their heart’s content with a variety of activities. Some parents use educational toys like blocks to develop fine motor skills and aid cognitive development. Interactive devices help with memory, communication and language development, and intellectual development.

For bigger kids: a board game or puzzles help with critical thinking skills; video games help develop decision-making skills and sometimes literacy skills. The introduction to sports and ball games can help to develop emotional skills and listening skills.

“All work and no play…”

If kids have less time for free play or to play outside, not only are they missing out on a lot of fun, they may also be missing out on opportunities to learn life skills. The lack of play can present problems in child development, and the child may present behavior problems and attention problems. It may also affect the child’s social-emotional learning since they didn’t have enough experience and exposure to different social roles and interactions.

Learn through playing

There are a few institutions that take play into formal educational settings. These schools incorporate learning through a variety of activities that are usually considered plain playing. You’ll be surprised how quickly kids acquire critical thinking skills and tactics in a game of capture the flag. But of course, these institutions are under professional supervision and have techniques and research-backed processes for playful learning in a school setting.

But we aren’t professionals, and we don’t have psychology degrees. We are just regular parents. Unless you are a professional psychologist or psychiatrist, in that case: why are you reading this?

As regular parents, all we can hope to provide is plenty of time playing and discovering the world in a safe environment under adult supervision. You don’t have to know the specific ways to help your child’s brain development. Let’s just do what we can and leave the technicalities to the professionals. So, play, be gentle, be patient, go easy on yourself, and always have a great day with the kids!



I'm a Mom of two daughters, Freya and Ava. I love to share insights on how parents can be better parents. I write about topics that are relevant to me as a parent: things like parenting style, relationship, marriage, and balancing work and family.

Boss Parenting
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