Play is important for children

Playing helps children learn and develop.

Play for children is more than just a chance to have fun. Play is important to each child’s development.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is vital in building thriving brains, bodies and social bonds. Research shows that play can improve children’s abilities to plan, organize, regulate their emotions and learn to get along with others.

Adults tend to push children to spend the majority of their childhood learning academics. What adults do not understand is play can teach children all the concepts they need.

The adults need to provide opportunities for the child to play in different ways. They should have freedom to play alone, with others, sitting, standing or just watching an activity. Essentials of meaningful play should include letting children make their own decisions, help them be spontaneous and most importantly, play should be enjoyable for the child.

Beginning at birth, adults can help children meet their health and developmental milestones by using play. The following are some simple examples for different types of play for children birth to six years of age.


h to 6 months

  • Respond with a smile.
  • Imitate coos and babbles.
  • Show them objects and tell them what they are.
  • Let them hold and touch items with different textures.
  • Place them in different locations both inside and outside.
  • Let them observe bubbles as you blow them.

7 to

12 months

  • Create a safe environment for them to crawl and explore.
  • Put toys within the child’s reach.
  • Let them look at themselves and others in a mirror.
  • Play peek-a-boo.
  • Sing songs and teach them finger-plays.
  • Read books and point out objects.

1 to

3 years

  • Provide unstructured playtime where they can lead and follow.
  • Give them simple items such as empty containers, wooden spoons and simple toys.
  • Provide opportunities to play with other children.
  • Help them follow simple instructions such as walk, jump, stand on one foot and other simple tasks.
  • Encourage make-believe play by providing empty cups, bowls and plates.
  • To encourage imagination, provide them with costumes and dress up clothes.
  • Read stories daily and encourage them to talk about the stories.
  • Sing silly songs and finger-plays.
  • Let them blow their own bubbles.

4 to

6 years

  • Provide them with opportunities to sing and dance.
  • Read stories and then ask questions to see what they remember.
  • Let them explore their imaginations by making up activities and games.
  • Encourage children to help with simple chores such as taking the garbage out, sweeping the floor and washing dishes.
  • Help them count the items in the cupboard.
  • Provide a safe environment for big movements like hopping, swinging, climbing and doing summersaults.
  • Encourage imagination by providing a box, tape, glue, paper and markers.

Did any of these items bring a personal childhood memory to your mind? Children do not need expensive toys or gadgets to have fun and learn. All they need are simple items, a little direction and a caring adult. In the near future, make it your goal to do something simple and fun with a child in your life. Children learn from everything they do and everything they watch. They will enjoy the time while they create a lasting childhood memory.

For more information about the power of play, visit and http:// For more information about supporting early learning in our community, please visit

Guest columnist bio: Joyce Hastings is the Program Director of Care About Childcare at Utah Valley University. Before joining CAC, Joyce worked at Child Care Licensing. Children have always been her passion. She had the opportunity to own and operate a large child care facility in Utah County for approximately 13 years.

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