The importance of play in Early Childhood

Written by BFIS Staff

Play is an essential part of a child’s development, and it is particularly important in early childhood when children are growing and learning most rapidly.

BFIS school recognizes the importance of play for young students and regularly incorporates play into its curriculum. It is through playing those children learn how to interact with others, explore their environment, practice motor skills, develop creativity, and create meaning from their experiences

What is learning through play?

Learning through play is an educational approach that emphasizes the importance of play in children’s learning and development. It involves using play as a way to help children acquire new knowledge, develop their skills, and explore the environment.

At BFIS our philosophy supports a play-based program. Play is an essential part of an Early Years curriculum as children are learning at the highest level through play. It is through these experiences that they build connections in the brain, which helps children develop physically, cognitively, socially, and emotionally.

Early Childhood Free Play

Why is play important for child development?

Learning through play helps children retain information and skills better than more passive forms of instruction. Play also allows children to practice problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration in a safe and enjoyable environment.

There is no division for children between play and learning, which makes play central to a child’s development, confidence, and well-being. Play enables children to make connections with the world around them, develop socially, as they move through the different stages of play, and build relationships and language skills through these interactions.

It is important to have a variety of play experiences, both indoors and outdoors. It is also important to have unstructured, ‘Free Play‘ and a more structured ‘Guided Play.’

Free Play

Free Play is a play that is self-selected and initiated by the child. Experiences are chosen either through interests and passions or through social connections. Free play is typically described as play that is child-directed, voluntary, and internally motivated. 

Free Play enables children to be decision-makers in their learning, with a self-established goal. During free play, children decide what and how they are going to play, where they will play, and for how long they will be engaged.

Free choice is intrinsically motivating, as there are no external expectations or concepts set by adults. Teachers observe and follow the lead of their students. It is through these observations that teachers can plan the curriculum to build on the student’s skills and interests.

When children have time and space to play without restriction, their imagination, and creativity are endless, as they explore ideas and interact with their immediate environment. 

Through free play, children can discover new interests, and gain a greater understanding of the world around them, whilst building their skills.

Play enables children to enter at their own level where they can practice and master skills, and process information. They can practice and process skills that they are learning, enhance their social and language skills and expand their imagination, and cognitive and physical skills.

Guided Play

Guided Play refers to learning experiences that combine the child-directed nature of free play with a focus on learning objectives and outcomes, with adult scaffolding.

Our Guided Play experience usually reflects our Unit of Inquiry. Providing high-quality planned experiences for children’s play is an important way for adults to support children’s learning that is both enjoyable and challenging, in meaningful ways.

Teachers prepare relevant and inviting materials and provocations, model new skills, and purposefully question and communicate with the child(ren) to scaffold their learning. While doing this, they learn to persevere, build in their ability to attend and engage, develop flexibility in their thinking as they work towards their goal, and reflect on the process.

Guided play in the early childhood years is linked to higher gains in literacy and numeracy than explicit instruction.

Guided Play in Early Childhood


Play is essential for the development of young children. It is through play that kids learn about the world around them and develop important cognitive, social, emotional, and physical skills.

It is important for parents, caregivers, and educators to provide children with ample opportunities to play, both structured and unstructured, to ensure they develop the skills they need to thrive.

By Marisa Blundell
BFIS Early Childhood Coordinator

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