The Power of Play

As adults, we often find ourselves marveling at the boundless energy and curiosity of the children in our lives. From the moment they come into this world, children are like sponges, eagerly soaking up knowledge from their surroundings. One of the most powerful ways they learn and grow is through play.

The Magic of Play

Play is far more than just a way to keep children entertained—it’s their primary vehicle for learning and development. Whether it’s stacking blocks, pretending to be a superhero, or splashing in a puddle, every playful activity helps children develop essential skills that form the building blocks for future success.

The Importance of Play

Research has shown time and time again that play is crucial for healthy child development. Through play, children develop their cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills in a way that no structured lesson can replicate. Play allows children to explore their interests, experiment with cause and effect, and develop problem-solving skills—all while having fun.

Nine Tips for Supporting Play

There are many ways we can support and encourage children’s play experiences to maximize their learning and enjoyment:

1. Create a Play-Friendly Environment – Ensure your home is equipped with a variety of toys and materials that encourage open-ended play and exploration. Blocks, art supplies, dress-up clothes, and outdoor play equipment are all excellent choices.

2. Follow the Child’s Lead – Allow children to take the lead during playtime. Follow their cues, engage in their interests, and let their imagination guide the play experience.

3. Provide Unstructured Playtime – While structured activities and lessons have their place, it’s essential to allow plenty of unstructured playtime where children are free to explore and create without specific goals or instructions.

4. Get Involved – Playtime is an excellent opportunity for bonding with the children in your life. Join in their play, ask open-ended questions, and engage in imaginative role-playing scenarios together.

5. Encourage Outdoor Play – Outdoor play provides unique sensory experiences and opportunities for physical activity. Encourage children to explore nature, run, jump, climb, and discover the world around them.

6. Limit Screen Time – While technology can have its benefits, excessive screen time can limit opportunities for active, imaginative play. Set boundaries around screen time and prioritize hands-on, real-world play experiences.

7. Embrace Messiness – Messy play, whether it’s finger painting, digging in the sandbox, or playing with water, is essential for sensory development. Embrace the mess and provide opportunities for your child to explore different textures and materials.

8. Celebrate Play – Finally, remember to celebrate and value your child’s play experiences. Recognize the learning and growth that occurs during playtime, and take joy in watching children explore, create, and discover the world around them.

And of course, we heartily recommend attending the Thrive to Five Playfest each year!

This free family event features activities tailored for young children from birth to five and provides families opportunities to create stronger foundations through rewarding play, creative expression and immersive literacy experiences. To learn more and register, visit

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care. Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article. You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance. Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.