The importance of play in development of children

Play is an essential part of development because it contributes to cognitive, physical, social and emotional well-being of children and youth. Play offers parents an ideal opportunity to engage fully with their child.  Although an important part of child development play time has been greatly reduced in this changing world we are living. 

Play has been recognised by United Nations High commission for Human rights as a right of every child. With this in mind I am taking a look at how our lives are reducing play time and how the professionals are bound by their code of ethics to encourage as much play time as is possible in the environment of each child.


First if we understand the Importance of play we may change our minds about reducing the time it is given in our lives.

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. Play is important for healthy brain development.  It is through play that children learn to interact in the world around them.   Play allows children to create and explore a world they can master, conquering their fears while practicing adult roles, sometimes in conjunction with other children and their caregivers.  As they master their world, play helps children develop new competencies that lead to enhanced confidence and resiliency they will need to face future challenges. 

Undirected work allows children to play and learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy sills. When play is allowed to be child driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover their own areas of interest, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.  It has been suggested that encouraging unstructured play may be an exceptional way to increase physical activity levels and to help decrease levels of obesity.

Above all Play is a simple joy that is a cherished part of childhood.


When parents observe their children in play or join in with them in child-driven play it is a unique opportunity to see the world from their point as the child navigates a world perfectly created just to fit their needs. When parents come down to a child’s level to play it tells the child that their parent is giving them their full attention and can help build their relationship.  This is an opportunity for a parent to learn the likes of their child and can be a way to communicate with them in a non-confrontational way.  Children who have limited language may use play to express their views or even frustrations through play and this is the opportunity for parents to gain an understanding of them as little people.  This is the most effective way of fully engaging with your child. 

Play can be an important role in the academic environment. It ensures that the school setting attends to the social and emotional development of children as well as their cognitive development.  It has shown that it helps children adjust to the school setting and even enhance children’s learning readiness, learning behaviours, and problem solving skills.  Social-emotional learning is best integrated with academic learning.  Play and unscheduled time allows for peer interactions and are important components of social-emotional learning. 

Reduced play and the repercussions

Our lives in general have become busier with increased working hours, two parents working, longer commute times to work I could go on. We all are feeling the busyness of life.  This is even impacting on children within preschool settings they are having reduced time for play as there are other structures in place that need to be upheld.  In schools there is less emphasis on Art and P.E there is more emphasis put on maths, English etc. etc.  We see an increased amount of children attend our clinic with perfectionism issues around school work which causes them to be in fact stressed.  As there is not enough allowance for a release children actually find it hard to retain as much information as what is expected of them.  Parents are constantly being fed through marketing that we should ensure that children have every opportunity academically and while those structures will work for some children and they will rise to this other children will find this a source of stress and can cause anxiety.  As parents we need to remember that the simple things like sitting down to dinner and having a chat, playing outside or just going for walks/cycles and having general downtime is extremely important to the overall development of each child.  A lot of skills that children need to navigate in the world are skills that they learn at home within their family environment such as

  • Confidence, competence, the ability to master their environments whatever they might be.  They need to feel love, deep rooted connections, feel safe and secure in order for these skills to be present in later life
  • Resilience, how to remain optimistic and to rebound from adversity they will need to develop skills such as honesty, generosity, decency and compassion. Most likely children will gain these skills from their home and it will most likely be a home that families have spent some down time together and support each other in a positive way.

We cannot underestimate the importance of downtime within our home environment regardless of what we are being fed through clever marketing campaigns around achieving high in academics is the pathway to successful lives. 

How do try to encourage play in our growing children’s lives.
  • As professionals we always use play as a starting platform for any type of input we have with children as it’s the common ground we can start on
  • When we discuss parenting with parents we always ensure that we advise around the importance of some downtime if not possible during the week, the weekend should be a time when there is less structure for children so unstructured play, walks, games night, something that you know your children will enjoy, watching a favourite movie together whatever it might be in your family this time is important for the healthy development of relationships and the reduction of stress.
  • For children who have reduced communication difficulties child led play is a way in to start trying to understand your child and to start building rapport to develop communication.
  • We would encourage language development through simple talking on the way to school, asking open ended questions and seeing what your child comes up with. Having a language rich environment at home by naming objects around the house such tidying up the laundry name the clothes, trousers, t-shirt, etc. etc.   All these little things help children on their way.
  • We would encourage parents to read to their children it is undivided attention that your child is getting from you.
  • We always encourage parents to choose the right preschool environment for their child and their specific needs. Children are all different what is right for one may not be right for another.
  • Playgroups – These are a fantastic opportunity for you to engage with other mothers while your child is getting to play
  • Play activities such as Gymboree, messy art playgroups again this helps build rapport between you and your child as they are getting your undivided attention and having fun.
  • Playing outside at any opportunity and reducing screen time can only be the way forward although we all succumb to modern technology it is important to have clear boundaries about what is acceptable use for everyone in the family including the adults(no phone at the kitchen table etc.) Have protected family time with the interference of technology.

We are supporting the upcoming Playstival that is taking place on Sat/Sunday 11th and 12th August in conjunction with The Happy Pear taking place in Airfield Estate, Dundrum, Dublin 14.

  • ● Ireland’s NEW summer festival for children and their parents celebrating play, fun
  • and imagination
  • ● The antithesis of too much screen time, the focus is on ‘going back to basics’ and a
  • more innocent approach to games and play – no fancy technology or a screen to be
  • found!
  • ● Children can immerse themselves in 8 interactive ‘play universes’ combined with
  • over 40 hands-on activities across the 38 acre estate
  • ● Imaginative play universes are designed by Festijeux , the world renowned play
  • positive and children’s creative games company from Grenoble, France.
  • ● Delicious fare all weekend provided by living happy and healthy advocates, The
  • Happy Pear
  • ● Enjoy all of what Airfield Estate has to offer including egg collections, Jersey herd
  • milking and tasting, vintage cars and much more.

A MUST ATTEND for families passionate about positive play, fun & the power of

the imagination!