The Value of Play

“Can I play, please, please? I want to play!”

The famous words every child has uttered on more than one occasion, most likely on a daily basis. But what is it about play that has children so captivated and what is the value in it?

Play allows children to explore, use their imagination and implement decision-making, all vital skills needed to survive and prosper in the world yet it is also a profoundly enjoyable experience.

Dr. Anne Kennedy from the National Childcare Accreditation Council has found that all facets of development including physical, social, emotional and intellectual are strengthened through play.

Play helps children:

  • Build confidence
  • Feel loved, happy and safe
  • Develop social skills, language and communication
  • Learn about caring for others and the environment
  • Develop physical skills
  • Connect and refine pathways in the brain
  • Ignite creativity


Learning through play is the foundation to academic achievement and overall well-being, however in today’s technological driven world closer attention has to given to different types of play to ensure development is not effected.

Children who spend most of their time using technology are not physically active and are not using their imagination to its fullest potential.

Unstructured play is open ended, it happens naturally and aligns with the child’s interests at the time and has unlimited possibilities. It is free play. No rules. Their imaginations are the driving force, exploring, creating, and moving at their own pace. The child is establishing its own objectives

Examples of unstructured play: blocks, drawing and painting on blank paper, dress ups, outdoor play, using cardboard boxes, paper towel rolls, and other safe household items.

Structured play has a more organised framework, at a set time, location and is often facilitated by an adult. It is play with purpose and there is a specific learning objective.

Examples of structured play: puzzles, board games, sorting games, follow direction games such as “Simon says”, story telling, dance, music, drama, sports and water familiarisation and swimming.

No matter the type of play the value it brings to a child’s development is tremendous, one could say it is crucial. The joy and fun to be had in the moment of play makes us all want to be kids again. So let out your inner child, be playful, encourage play and join in the fun with your child, because ultimately play is the key to a child’s development.

A little poem that captures the value of play perfectly. Enjoy!


Just Playing

When I am building in the block room,

Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play,

About balance and shapes.

Who knows, I may be an an architect someday.

When I am getting all dressed up,

Setting the table, caring for the babies,

Don’t get the idea I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m expressing myself and being creative.

I may be an artist or an inventor someday.

When you see me sitting in a chair

“Reading” to an imaginary audience,

Please don’t laugh and think I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I may be a teacher someday.

When you see me combing the bushes for bugs,

Or packing my pockets with choice things I find,

Don’t pass it off as “Just Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I may be a scientist someday.

When you see me engrossed in a puzzle or some

“plaything” at my school,

Please don’t feel that time is wasted in “Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to solve problems and concentrate.

I may be in business some day.

When you see me cooking or tasting foods,

Please don’t think that because I enjoy it, it is “Just Play.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to follow directions and see differences.

I may be a cook someday.

When you see me learning to skip, hop, run, and move my body,

Please don’t say I’m “Just Playing.”

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning how my body works.

I may be a doctor, nurse, or athlete someday.

When you ask me what I’ve done at school today,

And I say, I “Just played.”

Please don’t misunderstand me.

For, you see, I’m learning as I play.

I’m learning to enjoy and be successful at my work,

I’m preparing for tomorrow.

Today, I am a child and my work is play.

Anita Wadley

Edmond, Oklahoma