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Why is Play So Important in Childcare?


Playtime is not just about having fun but also about learning in a more natural way. That’s because during playtime, children gain a variety of experiences and they’re able to practice their creativity, physical ability and communication and problem-solving skills.

Why is play so important in childcare?

Most likely you’ve already heard or read about early childhood education and care centres having an emphasis on the “play-based approach.” It’s in line with the Early Years Learning Framework where playtime is an integral part of early childhood education.

But why is play crucial in early childhood learning and development? What does play do to the children’s bodies and brains? Will it be more productive and worthwhile if they focus instead on developing their literacy and numeracy?

The truth is that play is actually a more productive and worthwhile activity than staying seated in a classroom. That’s because play requires children to use their bodies, brains, emotions and imagination. For example, imaginative play (which often involves role playing) requires children to empathise and express themselves. It will engage their brains (through speech and communication) and help them better relate with others as they try to imagine what other people feel like.

In other kinds of play where there’s some running, climbing and jumping, these will require children to fully use their bones and muscles (which is vital to their proper growth and development). In addition, during those kinds of play their sense of balance and coordination will be utilised and developed. At first their movements will be clumsy and unnatural but as they get more active and get used to moving and playing, their motions will become polished and more energetic.

Playtime is also a great opportunity for children to further develop their literacy and numeracy. Qualified educators (and government agencies have also set some guidelines) have integrated learning into play (and also the other way around). For example, during playtime children can still learn about words and symbols (as well as the meaning behind them) and start better understanding the stories they hear or read about. During storytelling (which is considered a form of play) children will also be able to practice their listening and speaking skills.

Play is the more natural way to learn because it’s about gaining a variety of experiences and getting exposed to different environments. It’s also about having a richer interaction with objects, other people and the surroundings. This is crucial in their early years as their brains are actively gathering, processing and consolidating the inputs and experiences they gain.