Play an Integral Part of Early Learning

Play is an integral part of child development and learning. Through play, a holistic form of development is attained that comprises of physical – attained through development of their motor skills exhibited through movement of their body, cognitive and symbolic – attained through acquiring knowledge and making inputs of the information in an understandable manner, linguistic and symbolic – attained by children through tapping into their thoughts and using their voices to express themselves, emotional and social as well as moral and spiritual developments – displayed by children through the ability to control their emotions and finding the best way to express themselves, the later would be displayed through exhibiting knowledge about right and wrong. At different child development stages, children display different play strategies starting with more spontaneous play behaviors displayed during the youngest ages and more systematic forms of play in later ages.

Over the centuries, theorists have failed to come to an agreement on the importance of play with regards to child development. Some theorists such as Piaget, Froebel, Montessori and Winnicott formulated theories that explain the importance of play in child learning.

According to Sheridan, the significance of play can be looked at based on four functions namely; apprenticeship, research, occupational therapy and recreation.  These four functions can simply be understood as acquisition of skills, gaining knowledge of the world, being active and entertainment.

The different types of play also have different significance. Active play for instance is very crucial for physical development of the child. This is because it involves motor movements that help in coordination among other physical aspects. Explorative and manipulative play is important for sensory development, learning coordination and fine movements. Imitative play in day-to-day activities teaches the child on how to do things in her environment whereas constructive play involves the child learning creativity in order to make their own things. Pretend play teaches the child how to be imaginative and how to not only simulate situations, but also how to act out these situations practically. Oral language and the ability for the child to think in form of stories is a skill that is developed through dramatic play.

While playing with other children, a child not only learns how to be assertive and expressive of their views, but learn how to cooperate, hear out others, cope with stress and sympathize with others.

Through play with objects like clay, blocks and pebbles, the children get an opportunity to build their logic. Children will take two square blocks and put them together and realize the have made a rectangle and thus developing mathematical skills such as geometry. This promotes learning in that the experimentation, comparing outcomes and observation develops their creative and critical thinking abilities.

Play through pretending gives children the ability to express their imagination to signify their ideas and thoughts through imitation. A child would make barking sound and pretend to be a dog. This promotes learning through giving the child the fundamentals to literacy and understanding which sound is associated with which letter.


Bay Area Early Childhood Funders. (2007).

Sheridan, D. M., (1999). Play in Early Childhood: From Birth to Six Years. London: Routledge.




  1. Krys says:

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  2. Akinwande Taiwo Olajumoke says:

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