What is play?

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What is play?

Play underpins children’s learning and development. Through play they can make sense of the world and what they experience. Play helps a child develop language and social and emotional skills. For most children it can be a spontaneous and natural response and something we as adults should encourage and provide opportunities for. Play allows children to explore their immediate world, recreate previous experiences, practise new ideas and skills as well as take risks, solve problems and use their imagination - the learning opportunities are endless.

The role of the adult is critical for the play to be such a rich learning experience. The adult’s role is to scaffold the child’s learning by being a role model, by listening, offering support and encouragement and providing the time and space for exploration.

6 Top Tips to support your child during their play.

  • Get down to their level: This allows you to be fully involved in their play and for your child to know that you are together in the play.
  • Comment on what you child is doing: This helps the child make a connection between the spoken language and the object they are playing with.
  • Follow your child’s gaze and what they are interested in: Children learn best when you are following their interests and their lead, it motivates them and more often they stay focused for longer.
  • Turn off the background noise – television, radio, phones etc so there is no distraction: Unlike adults’ young children cannot tune out background noise. Turning off all distractions will allow a child to hear your spoken word and stay focused on their play
  • Make the most of the time – Let your child take their time to explore the activity, try to resist the urge to take over and do it for them so they get to experience challenge.
  • Do it again and again – Children learn from repetition, doing things over and over again allows them to master the skill. The more they practice and master new skills, the more likely they are to take on new challenges and the learning continues.

Useful Link

The following video features play experts Sue Palmer and Tim Gill; and chief executive of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. The video explains different types of play and how adults can support children during playful experiences.

"Almost everything that we become as adults has its roots in play."

Sue Palmer

For more information about play and how children learn click the link on the sidebar.


Top Tip

Playing with your child is very important, it helps them develop every area they need to be ready for school. Play supports language, social, emotional, physical and creative development and it can also can build their resilience and their independence skills. The adult is vital throughout playful experiences because they support the child's understanding, act as a role model and be the voice to their inner thoughts.
More information about play and how children learn
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Age Groups

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Games & Resources

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are you looking for advice about your child's learning and development? We answer your frequently asked questions here.

Get in touch

For further support or advice, please feel free to contact us on the email address below.
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