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The Role of Play in Development

Play is a vital aspect of development in children as it can positively change the way a child views their world. Play is an occupation that enhances creativity, full-body strength, social skills, and overall feelings of happiness and well-being. Many of us when we think of the word, play, we think of trivial fun. When we look deeper into the subject, we find that play is a vital component of overall success in all people. It is important for continual physical, cognitive, and social growth. By nature, children thrive through playful learning.

Dr. Stewart Brown M.D. is a clinical researcher who has written a national bestselling book on the subject of play while extensively studying the science behind it. In his TEDTalk, Play Is More Than Just Fun, he describes the essential need for play for children and adults. He teaches different types of play that we can utilize therapeutically.

Body Play- A spontaneous desire to get ourselves out of gravity. This can include a variety of movements that improves gross motor skills.

Object Play- The manipulation of objects using the hands which improves fine motor skills. This has been linked to improving problem-solving skills.

Social Play- Playing with others provides a bonding experience with other peers or parents. These skills teach children how to work with others, and how to manage emotions while interacting with others.

Rough and Tumble Play- Playful physical movements that can address areas of strength and stability while also allowing for emotional regulation learning.

Spectator Play- Simply observing others at play can bring feelings of joy while also increasing understanding of different styles of play that others may practice.

Imaginative Play- Make-believe or pretend play that can be loosely structured and individualized. This can increase creativity and exploration skills.

These different types of play are addressed through therapy to meet a variety of goals for patients. For more long-lasting and substantial results, these principles must be applied in the home. Much can be gained through a playful life.


Brown, S. (2008). Play is more than just fun. Retrieved from -785648

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