Make time for play every day.

Types of Play

Play is important at every age.

First and foremost, play is fun. But it is also essential for building social, emotional, physical and intellectual skills. There are so many different ways children can play.

Creative play allows children to express themselves. This could be by drawing, painting, singing, playing music, making a cubby under the kitchen table, building sandcastles at the beach, or constructing things out of recycled boxes and cartons and a roll of tape.

Dramatic play is where children designate roles or act out situations they may see in daily life such as playing doctors and nurses with their teddies or dolls. This may extend to imaginary play where children pretend they are fairies or dragons or astronauts in space.

Active play includes anything that gets us moving. Active play is dancing around the living room, throwing a ball, riding a bike, climbing trees, playing at the playground, or a game of organised sport.

Make time for play

Life is busy. Between work, household chores, family and social commitments we can feel pulled in all different directions. After the school day kids have homework, and then perhaps sport, music or dance. Time for play can quickly be pushed way down the ‘to-do’ list.

Whilst these organised activities are important, there is a sense that children’s lives are becoming ‘overscheduled’. Remember, play is important! Play supports children’s learning, it allows them to unwind and is a way for them to spend time with their friends.

Make time for children to play every day. Give children time and space to play.

Offer ideas and toys to encourage play and let them go for it!

And join in! You won’t regret it!

Join the fun

Play provides an opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children.

When parents dedicate time to play, placing all other responsibilities aside, they can fully engage with their children. Playing with children shows that we are there for them. This is an important building block for a healthy relationship.

When children are engaged in play with their parents, grandparents or other carers they feel safe and loved.

There is no age limit on play. By playing with their children, parents and grandparents of all ages will experience the joy of play. Join in games that are already underway. Provide ideas or toys to inspire play. But let children take the lead and make the rules and decisions about the play. Observe, listen and remain open-minded. You will see how children use their creativity and imagination to invent games and play with toys in new ways. You will be amazed at what they can create and discover through play. Through observing your children in play you can learn so much about them and the way they see the world.

Play Ideas


You are the best toy for your baby! Talk to them, sing with them, dance around the living room, play peekaboo, read together. Choose toys that respond when your baby interacts with them such as rattles, squeaky toys or shakers. Make sure these are safe for babies with no small or loose parts.

This image is provided by The Genius of Play™, an initiative of The Toy
Association, the north American trade association of the toy industry.
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Toddlers are interested to understand how things work. They will explore any object within reach, banging, shaking and dropping them to see what happens. Toddlers enjoy interactive play such as puzzles, or scooping and pouring toys for the bath or sandpit. They will have fun stacking (and knocking over!) blocks or soft bricks. Cardboard boxes and other recyclables will amuse them.

Toddlers delight in sharing play with adults. Talk to your toddler about what they are doing. That’s a high tower! Where did the ball go? Can you pour the water back into the bath?


Play provides preschool aged children opportunities to learn how things work, solve problems and predict what might happen next.

Collect a selection of craft materials so children can draw, create and build things. Read stories together and talk about what might happen on the next page.

Around this age, children start to play together and may organise games amongst themselves. This is important for communication with others and developing empathy.

Put together a collection of dress ups with old clothes and other props for children to play with. Set out a board game to play with friends or family members.

Preschool aged children continue to need support and encouragement when playing. They will also be interested to help you around the house. Let your child help with watering the garden or pulling up weeds. Make a little space in your garden for your child to grow some herbs or vegetables so they can learn about where our food comes from.

This is also a time when children start to take risks.

Providing a safe play environment allows your child to test their limits, overcome challenges and build confidence in their own ability.

School age

School aged children have a more structured day, but still need time to play. Talk to your child and ask them what they like to do for play. Some children will prefer quiet activities such as reading, drawing or doing puzzles. Other children will prefer more active things such as playing a musical instrument, playing sport or swinging from monkey bars. Remember, play helps children develop and pursue their own interests, so, within reason, let your child choose how they spend their time. Family time is also important. Family activities such as a walk to the park or a trip to the zoo can interest children regardless of age.