Many people can’t understand the idea of children learning “just” through playing so below are a few quotes and links to such an idea…


Learning through play is a term used in education and psychology to describe how a child can learn to make sense of the world around them. Through play children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.


The Many Benefits of Play

Play is the way children learn about themselves and the world. Through play, they:
  • Learn to get along with others
  • Sort out conflicts
  • Practice language skills
  • Develop small (fine) and large (gross) motor skills.

In addition, play encourages independence, self-esteem, creativity, and gets their energy out! It gives children much needed “down time” and functions as a stress reliever.



How do young children learn?

Children learn through all their senses by:

  •  tasting, touching, seeing, hearing and smelling
  •  watching and copying people close to them they learn language and behaviour
  •  playing

What is the importance of play for pre-school children?

Anyone who spends any amount of time with pre-school children understands that providing them with opportunities for play provides so much more than a few minutes or hours of ‘fun’. Play also allows children to relax, let off steam, develop social skills such as concentration and co-operation, encourages the development of the imagination, develops motor skills and teaches self expression.

Sarah Owen, founder of ‘Pyjama Drama’ – drama, music, movement and play for pre-school children says, ‘Many children seem to be born with a natural ability to play, but some children find it more difficult and need to ‘learn’ how to play well and this is where parents can make a big difference. Whilst it is very important that children play with their peers and are given opportunities for unstructured play, children who also play with a loved adult can benefit greatly – the benefits of having fun together cannot be underestimated!’


Our National Curriculum identifies several values and key competencies that we strive to teach our children. Almost all of them can be developed through play-based activities: innovation, inquiry, curiosity, and sustainability, respect, thinking, using language, and managing self, relating to others, participation and contributing.

Why not create a classroom environment to reflect a play-based pedagogy approach which encourages children to think outside the square and be creative? Why not arrange materials in provoking and inviting ways to encourage exploration, learning and inquiry?

We all know that play contributes positively to a child’s sense of well-being. It enhances a child’s natural capacity for intense and self-motivated learning.  It helps build creative and critical thinkers, and lets children test social boundaries. Play produces curiosity, openness, optimism, resilience and concentration. It enhances a child’s memory skills, develops their language skills, helps regulate their behaviour, advances their social skills and encourages academic learning to take place.


Play based learning

Play is an essential part of a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. For many teachers and parents ‘play’ has attracted a negative ‘time wasting’ connotation but in reality play is a vital part of every child’s development.  It allows them to test ideas, work through uncertainties, explore social interactions  and make sense of the world around them.  Play has no predetermined outcome or time limit.  It is not about an end product but about a process.  It’s the exploration of ideas that is crucial.  Play is children’s work.

It can be argued that children today have fewer opportunities to play and be active than in the past.  There is less time spent exploring the natural world, less time ‘doing their own thing,’ fewer opportunities to take risks and problem solve.  There is more time in supervised, protected and confining activities that put boundaries on learning and creativity.



Play promotes cognitive, social, and emotional development and is essential for physical development during the early years. Te Whāriki states that, “Children learn through play – by doing, by asking questions, by interacting with others, by setting up theories or ideas about how things work and trying them out, and by the purposeful use of resources” (Ministry of Education, 1996). Play eventually leads to creative thinking, and through what they are doing children can reflect on their own play to answer questions and solve problems for themselves to develop an understanding of the world around them.


Play & learning

Children learn and get new skills by playing, trying things, doing it themselves, and being praised. Play teaches them to think and discover how things work through touching, feeling, and moving things. There are many safe activities you can do inside and outside to help them develop.

A list of activities you can do with your toddler can be found at the Plunket link above.



Happy Playing!!!