Play & Your Child's Development

Play & Your Child's Development

Play is how pēpē (babies) and tamariki (children) learn best. We don't need to formally 'teach' our young children in order for them to learn. Ordinary household objects such as boxes, blankets, pots and pans can provide many hours of fun and learning.

How play helps child development

In this video, experts explain that play gives children different sensory, physical and cognitive experiences.

Raising Children Network Australia. Transcript available at the Raising Children website.


How can play help my child's development?

One of the most important things you can do to support your child's development is to build a positive relationship through playful interactions.

Find out about the importance of attachment in babies

Play builds muscles

Play that gets your child moving builds muscle strength as well as gross motor skills and fine motor skills.

Play creates opportunities

The time you spend playing together gives your child lots of different ways and opportunities to learn.

Play should be interactive as well as self-directed

Pēpe and tamariki thrive on interactions and engaged play but also need opportunities for self-directed play and exploration.

Play helps your child's brain

During the first years of your child's life, it is play, not scheduled instruction that contributes the most to their brain development. When your child plays, it gives them lots of different ways and times to learn.

Check some information about how children learn

Play helps your child find their place in the world

Play is how your child works out who they are, how the world works and where they fit into it.

Play develops with your child

As your child grows, the way they play will change – they will get more creative and experiment more with toys, games and ideas. This might mean they need more space and time to play. Tamariki also move through different forms of play as they grow. This includes playing alone, playing alongside other tamariki and playing interactively with other tamariki.

Where can I find some useful resources on the importance of play for my child?

Raising Children - The Australian parenting website

Raising Children website

Raising Children is an Australian Government-funded website that provides evidence-based tips and tools for everyday parenting from pregnancy to teens. The website has some useful information on how play can help your child as well as practical tips on play activities.


Brainwave Trust

Brainwave trust

The Brainwave Trust is a New Zealand charity that aims to provide parents with information on what is happening inside babies' brains in the first critical years, and how this impacts on adulthood.

Brainwave senior researcher Keryn O'Neill explores how play provides a wonderful opportunity to learn in her article Learning is child's play.

This page last reviewed 21 December 2023.

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