In today’s blog we will dis­cuss the role of play in children’s devel­op­ment and how you can facil­i­tate children’s learn­ing through play. 

Top­ics for pro­mot­ing play in ear­ly child­hood are cov­ered in detail in our course, Play and Learn­ing in Ear­ly Childhood.

The role of play in children’s development

Play can be defined as children’s spon­ta­neous, self-direct­ed, self-cho­sen, and self-paced activ­i­ties. Play inte­grates children’s expe­ri­ences in mul­ti­ple areas of learn­ing. For exam­ple, while play­ing “restau­rant” young chil­dren may scrib­ble orders, set prices, pre­tend to read menus, count play mon­ey, or apply the con­cept of quan­ti­ty to serve meals to a spe­cif­ic num­ber of “cus­tomers,” learn­ing a lot more than they would have by com­plet­ing a work­sheet, while hav­ing fun. 

Dur­ing play, chil­dren make deci­sions, are moti­vat­ed by their nat­ur­al desire to explore and under­stand the world around them, and become ful­ly immersed in the process. Dur­ing play, chil­dren fol­low their curios­i­ty, strength­en their prob­lem-solv­ing skills, exper­i­ment with a vari­ety of approach­es to reach goals, and keep try­ing until they feel successful.

Play accel­er­ates children’s brain devel­op­ment and pro­motes learn­ing in all domains. You can play an impor­tant role in pro­mot­ing the ben­e­fits of children’s play by select­ing appro­pri­ate play mate­ri­als, pro­vid­ing an excit­ing learn­ing envi­ron­ment, and being respon­sive to children’s interests.

Choosing play materials

A thought­ful selec­tion of play mate­ri­als helps max­i­mize the effec­tive­ness of play in pro­mot­ing devel­op­ment and learning.

  • Open-end­ed toys can be used in many dif­fer­ent ways and pro­mote exper­i­men­ta­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty. Toys such as blocks, play food, dress-up clothes, and water tables allow chil­dren to exper­i­ment and use their imagination.
  • Closed-end­ed toys have a def­i­nite use and end­ing point. For exam­ple, puz­zle and shape sorter activ­i­ties are fin­ished once they are assem­bled. They are good for build­ing atten­tion and learn­ing to com­plete a task.
  • Loose parts are mate­ri­als that have no par­tic­u­lar or defined pur­pose. Hav­ing loose parts avail­able to chil­dren encour­ages cre­ativ­i­ty and imag­i­na­tion. Exam­ples of loose parts include card­board box­es, stones, scarves and fab­ric, and plas­tic bottles.

Vari­ety ensures that chil­dren enjoy many dif­fer­ent types of learn­ing expe­ri­ences. Include play mate­ri­als that offer vary­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty. Blocks are a per­fect exam­ple of toys that chal­lenge chil­dren at every lev­el of development. 

While ensur­ing that cer­tain toys, such as blocks, are always avail­able, rotate the array of toys and mate­ri­als avail­able for children’s use at any one time. Chil­dren will show much more inter­est in items that have been put away for a time than items that are always available.

Designing the learning environment

An invit­ing and func­tion­al play envi­ron­ment allows chil­dren to engage with play mate­ri­als to their fullest extent. When design­ing your play envi­ron­ment, con­sid­er the fol­low­ing questions:

  • Are learn­ing areas clear­ly defined and easy to supervise?
  • Is there ade­quate space for noisy and active play?
  • Are active areas close to each oth­er and sep­a­rat­ed from qui­et spaces?
  • Is there a cozy area for chil­dren to relax and enjoy quiet-time?

Facilitating play

Your respon­sive­ness to children’s needs and inter­ests is crit­i­cal in pro­mot­ing the ben­e­fits of play. When super­vis­ing children’s play, con­sid­er the fol­low­ing edu­ca­tion­al strategies:

  • Offer play expe­ri­ences that cor­re­spond to children’s inter­ests, diverse abil­i­ties, and learn­ing styles.
  • Engage chil­dren in mak­ing decisions.
  • Care­ful­ly observe children’s play and judge the amount of time, sup­port, and guid­ance they need at any giv­en time.
  • Observe and record each child’s devel­op­ment to assess their indi­vid­ual needs, mile­stones to be reached, and set goals.
  • Fre­quent­ly reeval­u­ate and assess the play and learn­ing envi­ron­ment to ensure that it con­tin­ues to pro­vide appro­pri­ate chal­lenges as chil­dren progress along the path of devel­op­ment and learning.
  • Sched­ule the day so that chil­dren have plen­ty of unin­ter­rupt­ed, unrushed time to engage in play and learning.

Care Courses’ Play and Learning in Early Childhood Course

Learn more about the fun­da­men­tal role of play in young children’s devel­op­ment, stages of play, ben­e­fits of dif­fer­ent types of play, and how you can sup­port children’s learn­ing through play in our course, Play and Learn­ing in Ear­ly Childhood.

Care Courses Support

Please let us know how we can be of addi­tion­al assis­tance! Call us: 1–800-685‑7610, Mon­day through Fri­day, 9–5 ET, or email us days, evenings, and week­ends: We’re here to help!

5 responses to “The Benefits of Play in Early Childhood”

  1. I com­plet­ed this course last week but, I was not offered a cer­tifi­cate. Mopid num­ber is ****83 Thank you

    1. Good evening,

      Thank you for your mes­sage and con­grat­u­la­tions on suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ing your course Play­ing Outdoors! 

      Your cer­tifi­cate of com­ple­tion is avail­able in your Care Cours­es account. To access your cer­tifi­cate, login to your Care Cours­es account at, go to the My Cours­es area, and click on the “View Cer­tifi­cate” but­ton. You will then be able to down­load and view, print, or email your certificate. 

      Your course was report­ed to the Mis­souri Pro­fes­sion­al Devel­op­ment Reg­istry Sys­tem one day after you suc­cess­ful­ly com­plet­ed it. 

      Please let us know how we can be of fur­ther assis­tance by email­ing us at We are here to help!


      Care Cours­es Support 

  2. What a won­der­ful idea

  3. Will take this info into con­sid­er­a­tion. Play can be defined as children’s spon­ta­neous, self-direct­ed, self-cho­sen, and self-paced activ­i­ties learn­ing tak­ing all of this into consideration.

  4. I appre­ci­ate that you men­tioned how edu­ca­tion­al tac­tics reeval­u­ate and ana­lyze the play and learn­ing envi­ron­ment fre­quent­ly to make sure that it con­tin­ues to offer suit­able chal­lenges as kids advance in their learn­ing and devel­op­ment. My sis­ter was look­ing for a day­care for her 3‑year-old boy, so she will def­i­nite­ly take this advice into account. She explained that she has to resume work­ing so they can meet their finan­cial oblig­a­tions, and she also wants to be cer­tain that her kid would be cared for while she is away.

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