Find resources / Group parenting programme / The importance of play Module 3

Supporting whānau to understand that play is not only fun for their tamariki, but also important for their healthy development.

Play is special for tamariki. It is a child's main job and their way of learning about the world. Play with parents strengthens attachment. Play helps tamariki learn about the world and their place in it.

Play helps pēpi develop in different ways – emotional development, physical development, learning and brain development, talking and reading, and social learning.

Learning goals

  • Understand that whānau are a child’s first and most important playmates.
  • Know that all children do most of their early learning through playing.

Session plan

Begin the session with an appropriate settling in time – for example, karakia, gathering thoughts, waiata, simple hellos. This is an opportunity for people to share what’s going on for them if they wish.

Find waiata for your session

Introduce the topic of the day – today we’re going to spend time considering the power of 'play'.

Mix and match from the pūtea of related workshops below. Consider the following when selecting which ones will work best for your group:

  • the size of your group
  • how much time you have
  • the ages of the participants’ children
  • factors such as literacy levels and the particular needs of the individuals you are working with.

Background information

Play helps to develop a baby’s brain. When a young child is playing, they’re using all their senses to experience the world. New and repeated experiences connect their brain cells and develop their brain.

Play is children’s work

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

Through play, children try out new skills, explore their imagination and creativity, and develop relationships with other people in their lives.

Playtime is family time

Play can be an especially powerful bonding time for whānau and their children. Playtime with children can bring out the best in us.

The beauty of this learning and growing time is that the motivation for a young child to play is already there – enjoyment! When it’s shared with another person, especially one who loves you, it’s even more enjoyable.

Anything can be play

Anything can be turned into play. You don’t need a special ‘playtime’ or special toys. Doing things together that you enjoy – that’s play. Getting dressed, household chores, hanging out the clothes, sorting the washing and shopping are all opportunities to have fun and watch children learn and grow.

Playing games that include repetition, such as ‘Pakipaki o ringa’, ‘This little piggy’, or ‘Peekaboo’, also teaches baby about being a partner in a game.

Play ideas and activities

Play has so many benefits

Through play, babies and children use their developing senses – touch, sound, taste, smell and sight – to explore and gain a sense of wonder about the world.

Play helps them to learn to think. It teaches them to notice things, it improves their memory, and it encourages imagination and creativity.

Play helps children develop problem solving skills. As they explore, test, persist and succeed they gain knowledge, skills and confidence – and that makes whānau feel good about their parenting role.

They learn social skills too – how to take turns, join in together and imitate what you do.


Tākai resources

The world of under-fives [PDF, 9.8 MB]

Thinking about parenting [PDF, 11 MB]

Whakatipu booklets(external link) – Ngā mahi a pēpi sections

Order free printed resources(external link)

Related articles

Power of play

Give me things to play with

Learning through pretend play

Play at home: outside

Other resources

Play and learning | Whānau Āwhina Plunket(external link)

Video: Stay and play | Tākai (YouTube)(external link)