Play is important for children's learning and development, and gives them a sense of wonder at the world.

Play is a child's main job

Play is special for children. Not only is it fun, but it’s also important for healthy development. It is their ‘work’ and their way of learning about the world. Play is a child’s main job.

Through play, children try out new skills, develop their imagination and creativity, and build relationships with other people in their lives. Play can be an especially powerful bonding time for the whānau and child. Playtime with a child can bring out the best in the parent or caregiver. The beauty of this learning and growing time is that the motivation for a young child to play is already there — it is enjoyable.

There is no need for a special playtime or special toys. Doing things together that you enjoy is play.

Play helps to develop a child’s brain

When a young child is playing, they are using all their senses to experience the world. Their brain is developing because brain cells connect up as a result of new and repeated experiences.

When playing games that repeat themselves, like ‘This Little Piggy’ and ‘Incy Wincy Spider’, a toddler is learning about being a partner in a game. They are learning social skills too – how to take turns, join in, and how to imitate what the adult or older sibling is doing.

Anything can be turned into play, including getting dressed, household chores, hanging out the washing, weeding the garden and shopping. Parents can have fun and watch their tamaiti learn and grow just by doing everyday things together.

Through play we help babies and children use their developing sense of touch, sound, taste, smell and sight. They also gain a sense of wonder about the world.

  • Play helps children learn to think.
  • Play teaches them to notice things and improves their memory. It also encourages imagination and creativity.
  • Play helps children grow and develop, and that makes parents feel good about their parenting role.
  • Play helps children gain knowledge by exploring – for example, what fits inside something and what does not fit.
  • Play helps toddlers gain skills in persisting and succeeding with problem-solving, by allowing them to try.

Play ideas and activities | Tākai