The Importance of Play

by MJ Fisher

B. Soc. Sc.; GradDip Teaching; Dip. Care and Ed.

Play is a difficult word to define as there is no universal consensus regarding what it is. For some, play is best described as a recreational activity, something that is sought out for enjoyment or relaxation.  For others, play describes activities that encourage children to engage in high levels of learning, despite the fact it often looks like nothing more than fun. For the purpose of this article the focus will be on the latter definition. 

How play and learning are connected

In order for children to make sense of their world they reenact scenes familiar to them, for example playing mum and dad, looking after or being a pet, pretending to cook a meal, or being a teacher, etc.  When playing, children do not just act out different situations, they also feel them.  For example, they will pretend cry and reenact feelings of sadness when adopting the role of a tired, hungry baby.  As such, using all of their senses allows children to better understand their own and others’ feelings as well as make sense of the situation at hand.

Another benefit emerges from play because children, by exploring cause and effect relationships, develop an understanding of the consequences that result from their own and others’ actions.  The learning outcome of these experiences mean children will be better equipped to determine how they should or could act if a similar situation was to occur in real life. 

Play is a difficult word to define as there is no universal consensus regarding what it is. For some, play is best described as a recreational activity, something that is sought out for enjoyment or relaxation.  For others, play describes activities that encourage children to engage in high levels of learning, despite the fact it often looks like nothing more than fun. For the purpose of this article the focus will be on the latter definition. 

How play and learning are connected

In order for children to make sense of their world they reenact scenes familiar to them, for example playing mum and dad, looking after or being a pet, pretending to cook a meal, or being a teacher, etc.  When playing, children do not just act out different situations, they also feel them.  For example, they will pretend cry and reenact feelings of sadness when adopting the role of a tired, hungry baby.  As such, using all of their senses allows children to better understand their own and others’ feelings as well as make sense of the situation at hand.

Another benefit emerges from play because children, by exploring cause and effect relationships, develop an understanding of the consequences that result from their own and others’ actions.  The learning outcome of these experiences mean children will be better equipped to determine how they should or could act if a similar situation was to occur in real life.  The overarching benefit of play...