Learn through play

Learning Through Play: Developing the Whole Child

Learning Through Play: Developing the Whole Child

Key Concepts

1. Learning through play develops the whole child

2. Young children build their knowledge of the world through playful experiences

3. Play helps children foster the following essential life skills that are critical for developing the whole child


Even before children learn to walk or talk, they learn about the world around them through their natural ability to play. Children who are still in the early stages of infancy start to learn and make essential connections by playing games, singing songs, and exploring their surroundings. When children learn through play, they reap many benefits, including strengthening vital skills like communication, critical thinking, social awareness, and much more. The best thing about learning through play is it develops the whole child.

Today, most children go to school to learn concepts like reading, math, science, and other academic subjects. While these things are important, it’s essential to recognize that children have a vast array of needs and skills. Skills like collaborating with others, understanding emotions, problem-solving, and creating new concepts are crucial pieces of the life puzzle. It’s vital to plant the seeds for these skills during the early stages of a child’s development to foster lifelong learning.

Why is learning through play effective?

Perhaps, noted psychologist, Jean Piaget, said it best, “A child’s work is play.” Young children build their knowledge of the world through playful experiences and interactions with their environment. Whether engaging in free, guided, or structured play, children become more immersed in the activity because it interests them. Therefore, they are more invested and can maintain their focus better.

Learning through play is effective because it typically includes one or more of the following qualities:

  • Enjoyable experience
  • Meaningful activity
  • Active engagement
  • Trying new possibilities
  • Social interaction

Learning Through Play Encourages Holistic Development 

Children from birth through five years of age are in some of the most crucial years of their development. This is when it’s best to lay the foundations of lifelong learning. The more opportunities young children have for learning through play during these critical years, the likelier they are to grow into confident, well-rounded individuals.

Play helps children foster the following essential life skills that are critical for developing the whole child:

  • Self-Awareness and Understanding Emotions -- Through play, children learn more about themselves and what they can do. As they explore, they figure things out, building self-confidence. With more self-awareness comes an increased ability to recognize and understand various emotions.
  • Cognitive Skills and Critical Thinking -- When children play, numerous natural situations arise to challenge their cognitive abilities. Something as simple as building a tower with blocks can become a critical thinking lesson, as children try to determine how to get the building taller without falling.
  • Gross and Fine Motor Skills -- Coloring, doing a puzzle, creating rock piles, and other similar activities help children develop hand-eye coordination and fine-motor skills. These skills translate to crucial self-help skills like putting on shoes and clothes, which furthers a child’s sense of independence. Running, climbing monkey bars, and skipping over puddles helps children develop gross-motor skills. Engaging in physical play also has the added benefits of reducing stress and releasing pent-up energy.
  • Communication and Social Skills -- Even when children play alone, they are developing their ability to communicate. For example, when they use self-talk to narrate their adventures. When children engage in group play, they start to learn valuable skills like interacting with others, sharing and taking turns, cooperating, and solving disagreements.
  • Creativity -- Finally, play fosters creativity and imagination through things like role-playing, pretend play, and dramatic activities. Whether it’s a toddler making up a silly story or song or a group of preschoolers engaging in an in-depth superhero adventure, learning is happening at a fast pace.

To find out more about how the wonderful world of play can help your child make meaningful connections, and develop essential skills, make sure to explore the rest of Educating AMY for valuable resources and ideas. When you take the time to set up opportunities for your children to play and discover on their own and with others, you’re opening the door to a lifetime of learning.


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