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Connecting Through Play

What is play?

Play is a fun, spontaneous activity that is generally associated with children. Play can assist children in learning, growing, and developing various talents, including physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills. Play can also allow youngsters to express themselves artistically and interact with others.

There are various types of games, including:

  • Physical play entails using the body and physical action, such as running, jumping, climbing, and throwing.

  • Social play entails engaging with other children, such as playing games, talking, and working on projects.

  • Imaginative play: This sort of play involves using one's imagination and creativity, such as pretending to be someone else or making up scenarios.

  • Exploratory play entails researching and exploring the surroundings by touching, tasting, and manipulating objects.

  • Constructive play entails building and producing objects with blocks, legos, or other construction toys.

  • Rules-based games, such as board games, card games, and sports, are examples of this sort of play.

Developmental Stages of Play

As children grow and mature, they go through several stages of development, and play is a crucial component of that process. Here are some developmental stages for children and play:

  1. Infants participate in sensory play during infancy (birth to one year), such as staring at items, touching and gripping them, and creating sounds.

  2. Toddlerhood (1 to 3 years): As toddlers age, they begin to participate in increasingly complicated forms of play, such as pretending, mimicking others, and interacting with other kids. They also develop their gross and fine motor skills through physical play.

  3. Preschool (3 to 5 years): Children continue to improve their play abilities and become more imaginative and creative during the preschool years. They also start to play with others in more structured ways, such as taking turns and adhering to rules.

  4. School-age (6 to 12 years): As children join a school, their play abilities continue to grow, and they become more interested in games with rules and structure. They also start to engage in more sophisticated forms of imaginative play, such as role-playing and storytelling.

“Play is our brain's favourite way of learning" - Diane Ackerman

How does a new parent play with their newborn?

Infants frequently learn about the world and make sense of their environment through play. Playing with your newborn is also an excellent method to bond with them and make them feel protected and nourished. Often, the most powerful methods to interact and play with your infant are those that parents do spontaneously, regardless of previous experience. Not all new mothers or fathers, however, know how to play. Here are some examples of "play" with a newborn:

Chatting to your baby: By three months of age, infants can visually focus on things and benefit from talking to them throughout regular activities like feeding and bathing.

Holding your baby: Infants might feel safe and comfortable when held, which helps you and your baby create a bond.

Dancing with your baby: Because infants can respond to sound, dancing with your baby is a great way to get some tummy time in.

Giving your kid things to gaze at: Babies learn to coordinate their eye movements throughout the first year of life. They frequently love strongly contrasting colours and respond positively to the sensory stimulation provided by a baby gym.

Babies learn about their surroundings primarily through their sense of touch. Allow your infant to touch a variety of fabrics, toys, and other age-appropriate items.

Tips for Better Play

Here are a few last-minute suggestions for better play from parents:

  • Create a play space that is both safe and supportive. Make sure there are no potential risks in the area and provide appropriate toys and materials for the youngster to play with.

  • Participate in play with your child. Play with your child and join in their play to aid in their growth and the building of a strong, loving relationship.

  • Encourage your child to use their imagination and creativity when playing, and encourage them to explore and experiment.

  • Provide your child with a variety of play activities, including physical play, imaginative play, and social play, to help them develop in many areas.

  • Respect your child's play and allow them to take the lead. Try not to impose your own ideas or expectations on their play.

  • During play, be patient and supportive of your youngster. Encourage and support them while allowing them to study and grow at their own speed.

  • In general, these suggestions can assist you in positively nurturing and supporting your child's play and growth.

What toys are appropriate for my child?

Toys that a youngster plays with often change with age. Age-appropriate toys for newborns (birth to one year) could include basic sensory toys that excite the senses, such as soft dolls, rattles, and teething toys. Toys that encourage the development of gross and fine motor abilities, such as balls, blocks, and puzzles, are age-appropriate for toddlers (1 to 3 years). Toys for preschoolers (3 to 5 years old) may include dolls, dress-up costumes, and art tools that encourage their expanding imagination and creativity. Toys such as board games, sports equipment, and science kits may help school-age children (6 to 12 years) develop their interests and abilities. In general, it is critical to select safe, age-appropriate, interesting toys that assist a child's growth at their specific period of life.

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” – Carl Jung.

Why do occupational therapists assess play?

Play is one of the most popular activities for children, and it is through play that many youngsters develop their first friendships. Occupational therapists are interested in assessing play because it can assist in identifying areas of play in which a child may struggle. Occupational therapists who assess play often consider five factors: the environment, skills, motivation, activities, and method. There are several examinations to choose from, including the Interest Checklist, School Functional Assessment, Peabody Developmental Motor Scale (PDMS), and Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT). Nonetheless, occupational therapists frequently select the most pertinent for a specific child. Let's take a quick look at a couple of those evaluations.

Interest Checklist

A child's interests and preferences can be assessed using an Interest Checklist. It usually comprises a list of activities, hobbies, or other interests that the youngster is asked to choose from. The interest checklist can be used for a variety of purposes, including assisting a person in exploring their interests and preferences, matching them with educational programmes, and planning leisure activities. The interest checklist can be useful for anybody, but it is most commonly used with children and teenagers to assist them in developing a sense of identity and exploring future hobbies and occupations.

The School Functional Assessment

The School Functional Assessment (SFA) is a tool used to evaluate a student's capacity to operate in a school setting. It usually entails a thorough assessment of the student's academic, social, and behavioural talents, as well as their physical ability and contextual circumstances. The SFA is intended to identify students' strengths and needs, as well as to establish methods and interventions to assist their academic performance. Teachers, school counsellors, and other education professionals can use the SFA to assist students with various learning and developmental issues. It can also be used to track a student's progress and assess the effectiveness of interventions. The SFA is a great tool for identifying a student's talents and needs in the classroom and helping their academic progress.

Peabody Developmental Motor Scales

The Peabody Developmental Motor Scales (PDMS) are a collection of standardized tests designed to assess a child's gross and fine motor skills. The PDMS is a set of exercises meant to test a child's ability to accomplish a variety of motor abilities, such as reaching, grasping, walking, and running. The tasks are age- and developmentally appropriate, and they are presented by a qualified expert who observes and records the child's performance. The PDMS can be used to determine a child's motor skill strengths and deficits and to devise interventions to assist their development. It is frequently used by occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other specialists who work with children who have delays or problems in their motor skills. Overall, the PDMS is a useful instrument for assessing and encouraging a child's motor skills development.

Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests

The Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests (SIPT) are standardized tests that are designed to examine a child's sensory processing ability. The SIPT is a set of tasks and activities meant to test a child's capacity to process and integrate sensory information from his or her surroundings, such as touch, movement, and sound. A qualified professional administers the tasks and monitors and records the child's performance. The SIPT can be used to assess a child's sensory processing strengths and limitations and to build treatments to promote their development. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and other specialists who work with children who have sensory processing issues or other developmental challenges frequently use it.

Play is frequently used as a therapeutic strategy by occupational therapists to help children develop the skills required to participate in these activities. Occupational therapists can help children develop their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional skills, as well as their capacity to communicate and express themselves via play. Occupational therapists can also use Play to assist children in learning how to manage their emotions and cope with stress, as well as to enhance their overall development and well-being. The role of occupational therapy in play is to use play as a tool to assist children in developing the skills required to participate in daily activities.

Play is the principal occupation of newborns in occupational therapy, and occupational therapists who work with pediatric populations are experts in play. If you have concerns about your play, ask your doctor or another healthcare provider how you might get in touch with an occupational therapist.

"For a small child there is no division between playing and learning; between the things he or she does ‘just for fun’ and things that are ‘educational.’ The child learns while living and any part of living that is enjoyable is also play." - Penelope Leach, psychologist


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