Have Fun! Why is Play so Important to Your Child’s Development

Play is a crucial aspect of childhood development, serving as a foundation for acquiring new skills and expanding knowledge. As children progress through various developmental stages, their play skills also evolve, reflecting their physical, cognitive, and social abilities.  Below are some typical facets of play based on child development in different stages.

  • Infancy: Sensory Exploration and Early Social Interaction

During infancy, play primarily revolves around basic sensory exploration, such as grasping, holding, and examining objects. These early experiences lay the groundwork for more advanced play skills later in life. Additionally, infants start to learn about social interaction and forming relationships through play, paving the way for future social connections.

  • Preschool Years: Fostering Interaction through Play

In the preschool years, play becomes more focused on interaction with others. Constructive play, imaginative play, and social play skills start to emerge. Children begin to incorporate language and symbolic thought into their play, adding a new layer of complexity. Parents can support these developing skills by providing play opportunities that promote social interaction and cognitive growth.

  • School Years: Developing Rule-Based Play and Motor Skills

As children enter their school years, play becomes increasingly sophisticated, centering around games and activities with rules and skills. Motor skills that rely on efficient sensory integration and praxis become essential, influencing a child's social standing, motivation, and self-esteem. Some play activities, such as ball sports and model construction, necessitate a high level of praxis, involving timing, sequencing, and anticipatory motor skills. Parents can help children refine these skills through targeted interventions and activities.

  • Beyond Childhood: Transitioning from Play to Recreation

In older childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, play behavior is influenced by factors such as individual skills and interests, environmental constraints, and associated role requirements and responsibilities. Play also has a lasting effect on the development of sensory integration. Parents can support this transition by facilitating the development of adaptive and age-appropriate recreational activities.

Reference: Mailloux, Z. and Burke, J.P. 2007 ‘Play and Sensory Integrative and Approach’ in Parham, L.D. & Fazio,L. Play in Occupational Therapy for Children