call or text (480) 745-3702

We often get asked by parents about the importance of play in their child’s development. It’s not just a matter of keeping them entertained and happy – play is an essential part of a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development. In fact, research has shown that play is so crucial to a child’s overall growth that the UN High Commission for Human Rights recognizes play as a basic right of every child. In this post, we will explore the benefits of play in child development and discuss how parents can promote play in their children’s lives.

What is Play?

Play is a voluntary activity that is enjoyable, creative, and fun. It is self-motivated, spontaneous, and often involves exploration, experimentation, and imagination. Play can take many different forms, from physical games to imaginative play, social games, and creative activities. The common factor in all types of play is that it is child-led and child-directed.

Benefits of Play in Child Development

Play is not just a way for children to have fun and pass the time. It is a critical aspect of their overall development, with numerous benefits for cognitive, social, emotional, and physical health. Here are some of the most important benefits of play in child development:

Cognitive Development

Play is essential for brain development, particularly in the early years. It allows children to learn and practice new skills, develop their problem-solving abilities, and explore their curiosity. Studies have shown that play enhances memory, language development, and other cognitive functions. In fact, one study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children who engaged in more play had higher IQ scores and better academic performance.

Social Development

Play provides children with opportunities to interact with others, make friends, and develop social skills. Through play, children learn to negotiate, take turns, share, and cooperate. Play also helps to build self-confidence and self-esteem, as children learn to express themselves, take risks, and learn from their mistakes. According to a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is critical for social-emotional development, as it helps children to regulate their emotions, develop empathy, and build relationships with others.

Emotional Development

Play allows children to express their emotions and cope with stress and anxiety. It provides a safe and supportive environment for children to explore and process their feelings. Through play, children can develop resilience and learn to adapt to new situations. Play can also be therapeutic, helping children to work through traumatic experiences and difficult emotions. A study published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics found that play therapy was an effective treatment for children with anxiety and depression.

Physical Development

Play is also essential for physical health and development. It promotes gross motor skills, such as running, jumping, and climbing, and fine motor skills, such as drawing, cutting, and playing with small objects. Active play helps children to develop strong bones, muscles, and cardiovascular health. A study published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health found that children who engaged in more physical play had better health outcomes, including lower rates of obesity and improved fitness.

How to Promote Play in Children’s Lives

Given the importance of play in child development, it is essential for parents to promote play in their children’s lives. Here are some tips for encouraging play:

  • Provide a safe and supportive environment for play, with age-appropriate toys and materials.
  • Encourage unstructured, child-led play, with plenty of time for free play and imaginative play.
  • Allow for plenty of physical activity, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Join in the play when appropriate, and provide guidance and support without interfering with the child’s creativity and independence.
  • Encourage social play and interactions with other children, through playdates, organized activities, or school groups.
  • Limit screen time and prioritize playtime instead.
  • Foster a love of reading and storytelling, which can be a form of imaginative play.
  • Incorporate play into everyday routines, such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands.

In Conclusion 

In conclusion, play is a critical aspect of a child’s cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development. As parents, we need to recognize the importance of play and prioritize it in our children’s lives. By providing a safe and supportive environment for play, encouraging unstructured and imaginative play, and promoting social interactions, we can help our children to develop the skills and abilities they need to thrive. So the next time your child asks you to play, remember that it’s not just about having fun – it’s about supporting their growth and development in every way possible.


  • UNGA. Convention on the Rights of the Child. 1989.
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. The Power of Play. 2018.
  • Lillard AS, Lerner MD, Hopkins EJ, Dore RA, Smith ED, Palmquist CM. The Impact of Pretend Play on Children’s Development: A Review of the Evidence. Psychological Bulletin. 2013.
  • Ginsburg KR; American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. The importance of play in promoting healthy child development and maintaining strong parent-child bond: Focus on children in poverty. Pediatrics. 2007.
  • Hutton JS, Dudley J, Horowitz-Kraus T, DeWitt T, Holland SK. Associations between screen-based media use and brain white matter integrity in preschool-aged children. JAMA Pediatrics. 2018.
  • Hoebel J, Kuntz B, Braks K, Gediga G, Wirt T, Sandercock G. Physical activity, physical fitness, and overweight in children and adolescents: Evidence from epidemiological studies. Sports Medicine. 2014.
  • Ray DC, Armstrong JG, Balkin RS. A pilot study of cognitive behavioral play therapy for children with anxiety disorders. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. 2003.