Different Types of Play as an Important Part of Young Children’s Development

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 3003 |

Pages: 7|

16 min read

Published: Mar 28, 2019

Words: 3003|Pages: 7|16 min read

Published: Mar 28, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Types of Play
  2. Benefits of Different Types of Play
  3. Outdoor Play
  4. Fantasy Play
  5. Risk in Childhood
  6. Reflection

Physical development should be seen as being important part of young children’s development especially for the child’s intellectual development. The Welsh government play policy (2002) defines play as children’s behavior which is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. It is performed for no external goal or reward and helps grow their independence.

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Types of Play

Doctor David Whitbread, (2012) from the University of Cambridge stated that although play is increasingly difficult to define, Dr. David Whitbread (2012) categorized play into four sections.

The first sector of play which was categorized by Dr. David Whitbread (2012), is physical play. Physical play occurs from a young age, it can be presented in several ways such as jumping, climbing, dancing, bike riding, playing catch with a ball, rough and tumble play these are categorized as gross motor/ locomotor skills play can be presented through fine motor such as sewing, cutting, coloring and building with toys.

Research has shown that physical activity in young children can not only enhance concentration but also the child’s motivation, learning and well-being. Children have the opportunity to freedom of movement when enjoying physical play indoors and outdoors and have the opportunity to play which is inventive, stimulating and adventurous along with providing children with ability to learn social skills as they cooperate with one another and show consideration towards others.

The second play section Dr. David Whitbread, (2012) theory is ‘play with objects’, he observed this in his research on primates and children which was supported by the work of Power, (2000). Power (2000) found that play with objects begins as soon as infants can grasp and hold on to them. This can be seen when a child is hitting, dropping, biting and putting objects into their mouths and building things such as towers with blocks. This can also be described as ‘sensory-motor’ play when a child is exploring how objects and materials feel and building an opinion on the object.

Symbolic play in the development of the ability to use actions, objects or ideas to represent objects, actions or ideas as suggested by the California department of education (2018). Symbolic play is the third section of Dr. David Whitbread, (2012) theory he states that this type of play includes spoken language, numbers, reading, writing, painting and drawing. California department of education (2018) research found that symbolic play occurs at all ages for example the age of 8 months children are becoming familiar with actions and objects through exploration, by causing toys to make a noise by banging or shaking the toy. Around the age of 18 months children are starting to represent one object with another such as drinking from an empty cup but representing the drink with slurping noises. At around 36 months of age children begin to engage in make believe play by assigning roles to themselves and others.

The fifth section of play developed by Dr. David Whitbread, (2012) theory is Pretend play. According to the Hanen Centre (2016), pretend play is a critical part of children’s development. Research found that pretend play skills used at age 3 and 4 are linked to better language skills at the age of 8 and 9. Dr. David Whitbread, (2012) believed that pretend play is closely associated with the development of cognitive, social and academic abilities. Many studies have shown that the impact of pretend play has on their descriptive skills at the age of 5 to 7-year olds along with improving the child’s self-regulation as agreed with by Jameson (2010).

Benefits of Different Types of Play

Self-directed play is an important part of every child’s development. During self-directed play the child chooses what they want to do and how they do it, the child has all the control on what they want to play with and why. According to Anna Housley Juster (2015), there are many benefits of self-directed play, one benefit is that children gain a sense of freedom due to the control of their own environment.

It has been found that self- directed play can help children develop skills such as communication and language, self-directed play gives children the opportunity to express their emotions and self-expression. Playing games with children its highly important however, it is sometimes it is best to take a step back to make sure the child’s ideas are not over shadowed. Adults need to ensure that all children involved have a clear understanding of what the ground rules are. However, it’s important that your children learn these skills and abilities by themselves too. Children can surprisingly handle disagreements and create imaginative games when given the chance to do so independently.

Outdoor Play

According to the NCT (2018) outdoor play gives children the unique opportunity to learn and explore outside the classroom. The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) Curriculum, covers children aged birth to the end of the Reception year. The early years foundation stage curriculum became statutory in September 2008 this curriculum places a strong emphasis on the importance and value of daily outdoor experiences for children’s learning and development. There are many benefits to outdoor learning, learning outside the classroom can support the development of a healthy and active lifestyle by offering children opportunities for physical activity, freedom and movement, and promoting a sense of well-being.

Learning outside the classroom can give the opportunity for children to gain contact with the natural and not focus on technology. Outdoor play also supports children’s creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness and gives children the opportunity to experiment and discover their physical capabilities. Outdoor learning can be especially beneficial to children who learn best through active movement as very young children learn predominately through their sensory and physical experiences.

Outdoor play can be seen to many people as a critical part of childhood. Due to this notation forest schools were adopted as an innovative and educational approach to education and play. The aim of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of a range of ages through positive outdoor experiences. By allowing children use full sized tools, play, learn boundaries of behavior; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self-motivated. Outdoor play goes hand in hand with self-directed play as the child has the opportunity to decide what they would like to do or play with.

Fantasy Play

The British psychological society (2000) states that fantasy play is a type of play in which children get to take on different roles and enact various situations. Fantasy play is nonliteral meaning it is not realistic and takes form in many ways. The British psychological society (2000) believes that it is greatly important that adults respect and understand that it is an important part of a child’s development. During fantasy play children take on different roles during play, this gives them the opportunity to explore and understand various types of personal interactions and social situations whilst taking on multiple perspectives.

Children often perform activities without the use of the materials or tools and social context necessary for such activities in reality, Children may also create their own outcomes to the activity they are pretending to perform and may use inanimate objects as animate beings researched by Gayler, K. T (2001). Over many years a number of theorist and researchers have identified the importance of imaginative/fantasy play along with a child’s development.

Studies show that fantasy play supports, develops and benefits cognitive skills such as language and the usage of future tenses, subjunctives and adjectives. Psychologist Sandra Russ (2004) identified several different cognitive and affective processes that are associated with fantasy play like the ability to come up with many different ideas, story themes and symbols. Fantasy play also allows for the expression of both positive and negative feelings.

Research developed by Berk, Mann & Ogan, (2006) and Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, Berk, & Singer (2009) found that make believe play and games are an important way of learning for children as they learn forms of self- regulation including how to reduce aggression, delay of gratification and empathy. They also found that play enhances child’s capacity for cognitive flexibility and creativity along with problem solving and communication.

Russ, (2004), Russ, & Fiorelli, (2010), found during their longitudinal studies, that early imaginative/fantasy play is associated with the increase in children’s creative performance in future years. Russ, (2004), Russ, & Fiorelli, (2010) studies also show that an important benefit of fantasy play is its enhancement of the child’s cognitive capacity along with their creativity. Root-Bernstein’s (2012) researched creative individuals such as Nobel Prize winners and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant awardees, his research indicated that early childhood games and play about make-believe worlds were more frequent done by such individuals than in control participants. Fantasy, outdoor and holistic play can all be linked through the use of fine and gross motor skills as well as covering different aspects of learning, construction, language and creative play.

Risk in Childhood

Risk is an essential component of a balanced childhood. Studies show that children that are exposed to healthy risk, particularly physical with gross and fine motor skills being leaned, risk enables children to experience fear and how to deal with it and learn the strengths and limitations of their own body for example how far they can climb a tree without getting stuck. Research suggests that imposing too many restrictions on children’s outdoor risks hinders their development according to Peden and Oyegbite (2008) they also outline the importance of play as a necessary ingredient for healthy child development. Safety should be balanced with opportunities for child development through risky play children should be able to learn through mistakes.

If a child is risk deprived then they are more likely to suffer from problems such as mental health, obesity, lack of independence and a decrease in learning, along with perception and judgment skills problems. This can be created when risk is removed from play and restrictions are set too high for the child. Therefore, forest schools and other closely linked places are on the rise because children learn their own limits and learn the value when it comes to restrictions.

Research by Grundy S. and Towner E. (2002) suggests that if children believe they are not being challenged or have the necessary interesting risky opportunities in public play areas, they may try to seek these opportunities elsewhere which was found in a survey of 1,973 children aged 11 to 14 years in a deprived area of England indicated that over 40% regularly visited and played in wastelands, building sites, underpasses, rivers, abandoned buildings and quarries which creates even more unnecessary risk, which could lead to even more danger.

Sandseter and Kennair (2005) theorized that children ’s engagement in risks have a better way in reducing fear of situations such as heights, through a natural and progressive way of exposing themselves to the situation for example to get over your fear of heights you would climb a tree and progressively get higher every time. Sandseter and Kennair (2005) argue that if children are not provided with sufficient risky opportunities during their childhood, they will not have the experience to cope with fear-inducing situations. Furthermore, they will maintain their fear, which may in later life translate into anxiety disorders. This can also be connected to children adopting the unnecessary fears of their parents.

Although there are still disadvantages regarding too much risk in childhood as Meddings D. (2011) found that Unintentional injuries are a leading cause of death and hospitalization for children worldwide, taking the lives of nearly a million children each year. However, deaths from contagious diseases are on the decline. The grim statistics that on average 720 Canadian, over 12,000 American children and 42,000 European children ages 0–19 die every year from injuries make the need for increased injury prevention. However, according to Tovey (2011), it is assumed that by removing risks, children will be able to play in safer environments; this approach however fails to acknowledge risk-taking as a positive as children get to play and learn. Sandseter (2010) believed that this safety- obsessed society will result in children whom are less physically fit, have little control over motor skills, and are less able to manage risk.


This activity was performed with two groups of nursery class children, this activity was targeted to teach the children about nature and how it can be used for fun. Before this activity we felt that by bringing in the element of nature in by letting every child pick their own stick to paint their picture with. By conducting this activity outdoor their does provide some risks as discussed in the risk assessment which was completed before hand all staff of the nursery met to discuss the activity and weighed the benefits and risks of the activity and decided that the benefits outweighed the risk of this activity as we believed as a setting and following research that children do need to be exposed to some sort of risks in early childhood to benefit the development mentally and physically.

It is up to the role of the adult to consider all risks before the activity is conducted, the adults/ staff need to be wary of any tripping hazards before letting the children outside for the activity which is supported by Greenland (2006) who stated that the role of a teacher is to create a play environment where children can engage in movements that fulfill their sensory needs, this can be connected to the activity that I chose to complete. It is also the staff’s responsibility to ensure all the correct risk assessments are completed before the activity and ensure all gates are locked and secure so there is no risk for the child to exit the outdoor environment.

We felt this activity gave the children the opportunity to explore holistic, fantasy and free play as they are free to draw and create whatever the child may wish, this supports the child’s development and creativity. This activity also promotes outdoor play the children are using natural resources which can be found in the nursery garden which supports the early years curriculum along with promoting learning, imagination and freedom of play. We as a setting felt this was a great cost-effective activity, which helps promote children’s learning as well as having fun.

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This activity could also be developed to help children learning new letters, numbers or words, this is a fun activity which all children enjoyed and could really benefit their learning as the children were focused on the task they were given.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

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Different types of play as an important part of young children’s development. (2019, March 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 22, 2024, from
“Different types of play as an important part of young children’s development.” GradesFixer, 27 Mar. 2019,
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