It’s National Play Day!

Playday is the national day for play in the UK. The campaign is a celebration of children’s right to play and highlights the importance of play in children’s lives.

Over the summer months there is loads of opportunities for children which allows children to have fun and is important for enjoyment of childhood.

Play is also very important for children’s development, as well as you an opportunity to bond and connect with your children. Research shows that play has many benefits for children, families and the wider community, as well as improving health and quality of life. Recent research suggests that children’s access to good play provision can:

  • increase their self-awareness, self-esteem, and self-respect
  • improve and maintain their physical and mental health
  • give them the opportunity to mix with other children
  • allow them to increase their confidence through developing new skills
  • promote their imagination, independence and creativity
  • offer opportunities for children of all abilities and backgrounds to play together
  • provide opportunities for developing social skills and learning
  • build resilience through risk taking and challenge, problem solving, and dealing with new and novel situations
  • provide opportunities to learn about their environment and the wider community.

Although play is important for children of all ages it is especially meaningful and important for young children. Children don’t have to be taught how to play but you should make time to engage in it with your child, as interaction is critical for learning. Research shows that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth. Play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. This process helps with the development of fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills are actions such as being able to hold a crayon or pencil. Gross motor skills are actions such as jumping or running.

As well as helping children to develop motor skills and cognitive thinking, play is key to helping children develop social skills. Playing with children will teach them how to get along with others, communicate emotions, be creative, solve problems and introduces concepts such as sharing and kindness.

Types of Play

As your child grows and develops, play evolves. Certain types of play are associated with, but not restricted to, specific age groups.

Associative Play

When your children are around three to four years of age, they become more interested in other children than the toys. Your child has started to socialize with other children. This play is sometimes referred to as “loosely organized play.” Associative play helps your preschooler learn the do’s and don’ts of getting along with others. Associative play teaches the art of sharing, encourages language development, problem-solving skills and cooperation. In associative play, groups of children have similar goals. They do not set rules, although they all want to be playing with the same types of toys and may even trade toys. There is no formal organization.

Social Play

Children around the age of three are beginning to socialize with other children. By interacting with other children in play settings, your child learns social rules such as give and take and cooperation. Children are able to share toys and ideas. They are beginning to learn to use moral reasoning to develop a sense of values. To be prepared to function in the adult world, children need to experience a variety of social situations.

Motor – Physical Play

When children run, jump, and play games such as hide and seek and tag they engage in physical play. Physical play offers a chance for children to exercise and develop muscle strength. Physically playing with your child teaches social skills while enjoying exercise. Your child will learn to take turns and to accept winning or losing.

Constructive Play

In this type of play, children create things. Constructive play starts in infancy and becomes more complex as your child grows. This type of play starts with your baby putting things in his/her mouth to see how they feel and taste. As a toddler, children begin building with blocks, playing in sand, water and drawing. Constructive play allows children to explore objects and discover patterns to find what works and what does not work. Children gain pride when accomplishing a task during constructive play. Children who gain confidence manipulating objects become good at creating ideas and working with numbers and concepts.

Expressive Play

Some types of play help children learn to express feelings. Parents can use many different materials. Materials may include paints, crayons, coloured pencils and markers for drawing pictures or writing. It can also include such items as clay, water, and sponges to experience different textures. Beanbags, pounding benches, and rhythm instruments are other sources of toys for expressive play. You can take an active role in expressive play by using the materials alongside your child.

Fantasy Play

Children learn to try new roles and situations, experiment with languages and emotions with fantasy play. Children learn to think and create beyond their world. They assume adult roles and learn to think in abstract methods. Children stretch their imaginations and use new words and numbers to express concepts, dreams and history.

Cooperative Play

Cooperative play begins in the late preschool period. The play is organized by group goals. There is at least one leader, and children are definitely in or out of the group. When children move from a self-centred world to an understanding of the importance of social contracts and rules, they begin to play games with rules. Part of this development occurs when they learn games such as Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and team sports. Games with rules teach children the concept that life has rules that everyone must follow.