The Importance of Play in Child Development

The Importance of Play in Child Development

Play is often seen as something children just do… and yet, play is so essential to supporting young children’s holistic development. Learn more about The Green Elephant’s approach to curriculum below.

What is play in childcare?

Play in childcare is an essential part of the curriculum. Often ‘play’ is seen as something children just do therefore requiring minimal adult intervention. However, we as professionals of early childhood see this very differently… in fact, setting children up with the right environment, tools and stimuli to play with will dramatically change the type of play they engage in.

Think of it like this, if you go to cook dinner and there’s nothing in the pantry, the kitchen’s a mess, and the utensils are broken, your inspiration to create something yummy will be limited, right?! Well, this is the same for children when they are playing. That gorgeous imagination and wonder starts within their minds, of course, but add a bit of intrigue and encouragement then the heights that play reaches is limitless.

Play for the under 1’s 

Play for our babies comes in the simplest yet most effective ways. Singing whilst nappy changing, tummy time and sensory exploration ignite a child’s inner want to engage and explore. When babies are very young, routines can feel like an all-consuming part of family life, with the next nappy change, feed or sleep just around the corner. So, capitalising on these moments to still offer your child moments of play is the key to success. Learning the foundational skills needed for future development is important at this age, so our childcare curriculum encourages play which offers your baby the essential opportunities to explore different textures, trajectories and sensory outputs. All of which sounds fancy but can be achieved through something as simple as a cloth book with flaps and squidgy bits, or a soft ball that can be rolled and dropped.

Play for toddlers

As our children grow older and start to engage more in their wider environment, play becomes an essential component in their cognitive, physical and emotional functioning. It is through play that children learn how to process and navigate their own self. Therefore following your child’s lead and embedding their interests into their play experiences is the basis of our childcare curriculum here at The Green Elephant. Nature hunts and role play which reflects ‘real-life’ experiences give children the chance to explore their surroundings. They learn to negotiate roles within play and establish self-identity, meaning that play isn’t just play… it is the way children explore who they are in relation to others. They build confidence, assert their own will and most of all, have fun along the way!

Play for young children

As children reach that 3- to 4-year-old phase of life, they show more will to play with others. Children at this age will show stronger friendships with their peers, have preferences within their play styles and this is often the phase we see a strong sense of identity forming. We at The Green Elephant know that reading children’s cues and listening to what they contribute is the greatest way to engage them in effective play. That’s why you will often hear ‘play-based’ and ‘child-led’ used within childcare curriculum, as children’s want to play is the first step in creating inspiring play contexts. Ultimately, play is the strongest form of learning. Even as children transition to school, play is still an essential component of their being prepared, with imaginative, problem-solving and confidence-boosting play all contributing to children being confident learners.


How can play support your child’s development?

When it comes to development, children rely on strong role models to show them the way… they learn from each other, as well as their educators. Play in childcare is a great opportunity to show children the whys and hows, whilst avoiding that old-style rote learning model which, let’s face it, just isn’t as fun for our youngest minds. 

Social and Cognitive Development 

When learning new skills, our brains need repetition to build strong synapses (that is the pathway from one nerve cell to another). Ever drive your car home for the 100th time and don’t remember turning at the last roundabout… this is because the synapse in your brain has been so well-developed through repetition that you could probably close your eyes and imagine the whole route turn for turn. Well, it’s the same during play; children will often repeat actions, revisit toys and reiterate the same movements as a way of building up these connectors across their entire bodies. Therefore, giving children space and time to play isn’t just about them having fun, it truly is the first steps in helping them to build the skills essential for life. 

Physical Development 

Physical development through play is probably quite an obvious discussion point, with idyllic photos depicting children running, jumping and hopping through a happy childhood. But physical activity also gives children the chance to engage in risky play that is essential in building their confidence and go-get-them attitude. Here at The Green Elephant, we provide a childcare curriculum that promotes risk-taking in environments that are developmentally appropriate. Even our youngest children have opportunities to take physical risks by pulling themselves up onto low-level furniture or cruising around the child-height table, things that often aren’t possible in the adult-size world they face on a regular basis. 

How we base our curriculum around your child’s developmental needs

‘Holistic development’ is often a term used in childcare to denote the way in which learning happens in an interconnected way. As early childhood professionals, we don’t see development as isolated segments of a child, but instead, recognise the multi-layered nature of children’s progress. Thus, we at The Green Elephant create a curriculum that supports children in a holistic way. 


during all moments of children’s learning and play the language we use (both verbal and non-verbal) is planned and considered, with educators capitalising on moments of routine and daily activity to introduce, model and reaffirm positive language use.


this pursuit isn’t simply about the arts; it is about giving children the chance to explore their imaginations in an unbounded way. Creativity is about the process, not the outcome, so providing children with the tools, environment and (most importantly) freedom to use trial and error during the process of creative expression is essential!


the key to all play is exploration! Play shouldn’t be seen as something that adults must intervene in (this is why the way you set-up the play context is essential). Ultimately, it is our belief that in childcare if a child can reach or access something, it can be played with. Young children don’t see the logical differences that we do… a pen that’s on the children’s table as opposed to the educator’s pot is the same thing to a child. So, set up their play environment purposefully, with clear intention, then a child’ exploration during play can be limitless.

Where is The Green Elephant…

Having read the above, are you now considering daycare for your child and family? Well, come along and meet one of our team on a tour of our Beaconsfield, Horsley Park, Rosebery or Waterloo services. We will chat to you about your child’s needs, what you can expect from the enrolment and orientation process, as well as give you some advice in tackling those nerves you will undoubtedly be feeling. 

Reach out to one of our friendly TGE Enrolments team now by clicking here, or alternatively calling on call 1300 353 742 to book a tour. 

We look forward to welcoming you to The Green Elephant family.

Children Dressed In Superhero Costumes