Playing is fun and also beneficial to a child’s learning and healthy development. Having good play experiences helps children to develop skills they can draw on as they become young adults and make their own way in the world.

In the early years of children’s lives parents are encouraged to play with their children. Early play helps to create attachment between parents and their children and helps children to develop language and social skills. As children get older they will seek greater independence and will want to play with friends further away from their parents.

Play and physical development

When playing children are likely to be physically active by running, jumping, dancing, climbing, digging, lifting, pushing and pulling.

Play and learning

When playing, children are solving problems, learn new words, exploring how things work, and choose what to do

Play and socialising

When playing, children make friends, argue and make friends again, learn to share.

Play and creativity

When playing, children test things, make things, use their imagination, express themselves. 

Play and feelings

When playing, children express themselves, are often happy, come to terms with different experiences. All of these help children to be less stressed.

Early years


Play from birth

In these early days, we can support babies through activities which stimulate sight, hearing, touch and movement. Facial games, songs, gentle movement and having things to hold and grab help babies and parents to bond. It also lets the baby know that parents are fun and playful.

Babies playing

From the ages of 6-12 months, facial games, like peek a boo continue to be favourites of babies - it’s a fun and easy way to introduce uncertainty in a gentle way.  Babies are becoming more mobile and need to crawl, roll and move around. They are using their whole bodies and their senses (such as sight, hearing and taste) to learn about themselves, familiar adults and the world around them.

Toddlers playing

This is the time when children are learning to talk and learn new words. Toddlers are naturally curious and distracted by new and different things. 

It is important to play with natural materials - many toddlers are attracted to sticks, stones, leaves, earth, grass, mud and water. They find joy in splashing, paddling and generally getting dirty. They continue to find out more about their senses / tastes, smell and textures continue to help them find out about their world.


Their movement is improving and they look for chances to balance, climb, and hide under things (like tables and chairs). It can be tempting to stop these things or help, but allowing this activity helps them to learn about their bodies and what they can (and can’t yet) do.


At this stage, toddlers like to copy what others are doing - hoovering, raking, washing cars are all fun. 


Early years (3-5)

Young children continue to enjoy being outside - they are drawn to bushes, trees and long grass to explore in.

They are starting to enjoy playing with the elements - playing in the rain is fun, so is digging in sand, running in wind and watching a fire.

They are staring to try to make things with building blocks, pieces of fabric and cardboard boxes.This helps co-ordination and learn about size and shapes. Part of the fun in this is being able to take things apart again. Doing something is much more important than the end product at this age and when children knock something down, they don’t see it as ‘ruining it’, so we shouldn’t either. 

Younger children are becoming more and more creative, and the more everyday things they have to play with, the more creative they are. They are starting to value having control over a space, so will want to make dens and spaces to hide and play.



Children aged 5-8


At these ages, children are starting to be a bit more imaginative in their play.  Dressing up is fun, but needn’t be expensive. Children like to try on our shoes, hats and use old handbags. They are happy using bits of material for capes, gowns and veils. At this age, children are developing their own identity and will play at different things - girls will dress as boys and boys as girls and this is normal.


This is also a time where children may enjoy rough and tumble play with their friends. This isn’t always easy to watch, because it can look too much like fighting.  But allowing this sort of play helps children to learn about their own bodies, their strength, and how to respond to other children they are playing with. It also helps children to develop the skills and confidence to understand their own bodies and how to look after them.


Children of this age continue to enjoy making things and their creations are becoming more sophisticated/ intricate and if there are plenty of household items (food boxes, toilet rolls, egg boxes, plastic bottles) around, they can create great items to play with, such as rockets, animals and furniture for small dolls and figures.

Playing outdoors remains enjoyable and at this age, children are starting to want to be a bit more independent.  his is a good time to help children get to know our neighbourhoods and neighbours. If we are less reliant on travelling by car ourselves in our local communities, children will get to know their local streets. Walking to and from local facilities such as the shops, school and the park can help us identify solutions together with our children to keep themselves safe when the time comes for them to be out and about more independently.






playing out



Hanging out/socialising