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Learning through play

Play is important for the early stages of brain development and playing with your child can help build relationships for later life. But no matter what age we are, play helps to develop important skills for learning, life and work.


Encouraging play is one of the best things you can do for your child, whatever their age, and it's free!


What is play?


Free play is what happens when children follow their own ideas and interests in their own way, and for their own reasons. They can do this on their own or with others. It can happen inside or outside.


Children should be given the choice of how and when they play. Play is just as important for your teenager as it is for your baby or young child.


There is lots of information available about the health and wellbeing benefits of play. Active play helps to build strong bones and muscles. Children explore their feelings through play, and this can help them build resilience and cope with stress.


Play is how young children make sense of the world. There is also evidence to show that play in early childhood can influence the way your child's brain develops, helping to co-ordinate their mental and physical capabilities. Through play, children and young people of all ages develop problem-solving skills, imagination and creativity, language and observation skills, and memory and concentration. 


How can I help?


When you play with your baby or young child it is an important part of the bonding process. How you play with your child when they are young can have a positive impact on how they form relationships when they are older.


As your child grows up your role will change. They will need you to take a step back and allow them to play alone and with their friends. This helps to build their confidence and independence. 


  • There are lots of different things you can do to encourage your child or young person to play.
  • Get the environment right – turn off the TV!
  • Encourage play, especially outdoors, remember to allow freedom and choice.
  • Encourage your child to play outside in all kinds of weather.
  • Give your child enough time to finish their play.
  • If you have to stop your child playing, try to give them plenty of warning to allow them to bring their play to a close.
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