Child Development

Children develop at their own rates, and in their own ways. The following information offers guidance for practitioners working within early years to do all they can to help children have the best possible start in life.

Importance of Play

Play is very important to a child's development, it is an integral part of a child's Early Years Foundation Stage and supports their learning journey too.

Young children can develop many skills through the power of play. They may develop their language skills, emotions, creativity and social skills.

On this page you will find information on the benefits of play and types of play on encouraging children to use their creativity to develop their learning.

Play is the highest form of research
-Albert Einstein

The benefits of play

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

The wisdom of play

David Elkind, Stuart Brown, Larry Schweinhart, and other early childhood experts record their thoughts on the importance of play. Read how play is a child's way to make sense of their world, and why it is an essential part of emotional and physical well-being.

The power of play

Despite growing mountains of evidence that active, self-directed play is vital to young children's development, a surprising number of parents and other adults question the value of time spent in play. Read more on the power of play.

Play and the revised EYFS

This free booklet and PowerPoint training details how children's play naturally fulfils the revised EYFS, and cross-references that play to the statutory guidance.

The guide is divided into sections based on the activity areas seen in most early year's settings. Each section then gives sample observations, and says how the play that takes place meets the seven areas of learning and development. The guide is easy to use and will give practitioners the confidence to demonstrate compliance to Ofsted.

Types of Play 


Inclusive Play 

Inclusivity recognises that every child is uniquely different and benefits from the team working together to secure ensure all children have 'access and opportunity' to secure good outcomes for every child. Creating places that are truly inclusive is important in the understanding of diversity.

The Sensory Trust has produced a practical resource booklet that provides early years practitioners with information and advice on the development of an inclusive environment.

Outside Play 

A  useful resource to support practitioners in providing play opportunities in the outdoors is 'Going out to play with Fred the Ted - getting children outside'

During Winter children’s access to outdoor play can be reduced, however, the benefits of outdoor play don’t go away in cooler weather, in fact the ice and snow can be used to enhance the learning environment!

Providers often have to manage parents’ wishes about play outside on colder days, with many of them worrying that the cold will increase their child’s chances of catching coughs and colds. In fact, the opposite is true. Remaining inside, in a warm environment, is much more conducive to the life cycle of bugs and germs. Being outside will also help to boost children’s levels of Vitamin D, vital for healthy bone development. 

Open-ended play with blocks and simple materials

One universal type is open-ended play, also known as free-flow play (Bruce 1991), in which the children themselves determine what to do, how to do it, and what to use. Open-ended means, 'not having a fixed answer; unrestricted; allowing for future change'. In the course of such play, children have no fear of doing it wrong since there is no 'correct' method or outcome; and observant adults are privileged with insights into children's development and thinking.





Schema is a word for the urges that children have to do things like climb, throw things and hide in small places. Schematic behaviour appears through play in the way children choose to do things, or what they desperately need to do out of the blue!

Schematic behaviours are important building blocks for the brain as the repetition helps to forge links in the brain, which in turn aids development.

In this short paper 'Schemas and young children's learning' Cathy Nutbrown sets out a few thoughts about schemas, and how parents and practitioners can identify them.

Making play dough

The joys and wonders of squishy, squashy play dough! It has endless possibilities. It's not only fun, it provides children with an opportunity to get creative, develop hand/finger muscles (the same muscles they will one day use to hold a pencil and write) and can be soothing in times of stress. This simple preschool resource is a powerful way of supporting children's holistic learning.

Remember allowing children to make the play dough themselves is not only fun but provides them with further learning opportunities where they are able to explore mathematical concepts and gain an understanding of the world. Go on give it a go!

More ideas on making play dough

Service Dough Area

In early years, supporting children to develop their self-help skills and regulating their behaviour, is at the core of what we do. The service dough area is a unique way of doing this as it allows children to select and measure their own ingredients to make their play dough. Through this activity children have an opportunity to explore the dough making properties in any way that they choose i.e. crumbly dough, sticky dough, you name it.


The following resources can help practitioners to support children's learning and development, by closely matching what they provide to a child's current needs.

Last update: Wednesday 9th of February 2022 02:47:35 PM