Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler

The importance of play

  • Helen Hansen
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler

The intelligence of play occurs way beyond the naked eye. The world of ‘pretend’ is a necessary means of intellectual and emotional development for young children who are absorbing new experiences all the time. This safe space provides the opportunity to explore emotions and situations that are relevant for the child at a particular time.

Different stages of childhood mean different types of play.  Creativity and curiosity are the basis of play, no matter what the age. For example, babies and toddlers explore and express their curiosity through body movement. This prepares the brain for the next development phase. While younger children generally play for no reason other than pleasure, older children enjoy working towards a specific outcome.

Joseph Chilton Pearce states in his book ‘Evolution’s End’, “Play develops intelligence, integrates our triune nature; prepares us for higher education, creative thought and helps us prepare for becoming an effective parent when that time comes”.

If you are tempted to cut your child’s playtime, remember that oxytocin, a hormone and brain chemical described as the “love molecule”, is released through play. In effect, playing, is like having a boost of goodness injected into your body improving mood and the immune system.

Children learn first and foremost how to play from parents and siblings.  Added to this is free-play where the child plays alone, making his/her own decision about what to do.  Social and solo play is an essential ingredient for the daily life of children of all ages.

Author: Helen Hansen is a kinesiologist with extensive experience in early childhood development and developmental psychology.  You can read more about play in Helen’s recently released book, ‘150 inspiring educational activities for 2 to 7 year olds’.   Helen offers therapy sessions for children and adults to balance imbalances in the body, mind and emotions.  You can contact Helen:

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