The role of a child is to play! Learning and knowledge is grounded in physical interaction with the world. When a child moves, they learn balance, coordination, endurance, core strength, visual motor integration, and social skills. Having children engage in intrinsically motivating, child-directed, active, and freely chosen activities is critical for their development.

Why is play important?

  • Supports healthy brain growth and development
  • Expands cognitive, emotional, social and motor skills
  • Allows children to be creative and imaginative
  • Enhances problem solving skills
  • Helps foster independence
  • Allows for opportunity to make choice
  • Fosters self-esteem
  • Helps manage stress
  • Helps form nurturing relationships with caregivers

Active Play vs. Passive Entertainment

  • Active Play: The child integrates the senses when actively engaging in intrinsically motivating activity (e.g. building a train track, pedaling a bicycle).
  • Passive Entertainment: The child is an observer as something else occurs around them (e.g. watching a train go around a track, riding on a power operated toy).

Passive entertainment is NOT play! It is important that children are engaging regularly in active play.

How can parents support play?

  • Respond appropriately by matching the child’s interests, emotions, language level and sensory needs in a pressure-free environment
  • Avoid asking too many questions during play
  • Avoid giving directions – let the child lead!


Characteristics of toys to foster positive play

  • Simple – Household items can be used in a variety of ways (e.g. pots/pans and a ladle or a laundry basket that functions as a pretend play castle)
  • Safe and durable (age and developmentally appropriate items)
  • Should encourage exploration and problem solving such as cause-and-effect toys