The power of play: Understanding child development in early years

Guest Blog written by Paragon Skills’ Childcare Personal Tutor, Amy Baines

After working in the early years sector for many years, I have continuously developed my knowledge of play and the power that it has in early years settings. 

Play underpins the foundations of the EYFS and is heavily promoted throughout the early years sector. 

Play is one of the fundamental activities that a child can participate in and enjoy, whilst not knowing that they are learning and developing an array of skills. It develops several areas of development for a child such as problem-solving skills, cognitive skills, self-regulation, friendships and self-expression to name a few. 

Children can use their imagination to be their favourite character in a book or a person they mimic from home. Play can help a child to understand different ways of life and traditions. Helping children learn to share, understand other people’s opinions and develop their understanding of how to join in with others. Play can help children to develop their language and communication skills through conversations with others, help children to overcome mistakes, learn from these and use these in future situations. Play helps children to explore risks, understand the consequences of risks and how to deal with these safely.  

Play is an integral part of children’s development and one of the most important activities for children to have the opportunity to participate in everyday. 

Practitioners can support play in everyday practice. I know from past experiences, children thrive on being able to use their own ideas and thoughts in play and being given the opportunity and time to follow these ideas through, with the support of a practitioner if it is needed, is so rewarding for a child. 

Practitioners are the greatest source of support for children and their play, by providing them with resources, supporting enabling environments and being there to offer ideas on how to extend the children’s play. Practitioners are key in encouraging play opportunities with children and should focus activities around play to engage the children more. 

As we are role models to children, we need to show children how to play and support this when the child comes to a stumbling block and needs that encouragement to move forward. This gives the children the confidence to try new ideas and explore their own ways of play. 


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