Unit Two: What are the developmental benefits of play?


Unit Goals

By the completion of this unit participants will be able to:

  • Describe the developmental benefits of play
  • Identify the developmental domains accessed through play activities


A good way to learn about the developmental benefits of play, is to experience play for ourselves.

Time allotted for this activity should ideally be at least one and a half hours. This is a pared down version of a half-day play workshop.

Pin.gif Critical to this experience, is the ability to release all preconceived notions of individual capabilities and truly embrace the creative process of play. The selection of play materials should be open ended, allowing participants to construct their own use, purpose, and meaning. Examples of open ended materials include clay, beads, scraps of paper/fabric/wood, twigs, string, cardboard tubes, styrofoam packing, blocks. Also, background instrumental music is recommended as an additional source of inspiration. Go to Unit Two Activity

Research Findings on the Developmental Benefits of Play

After completing the play activity, participants have experienced the benefits of play and have a better understanding of the positive impact play can have on children's development. This section of the unit presents a summary of research findings which address the developmental benefits play has on the acquisition of social-emotional, motor, language, and cognitive skills. The article The Role of Pretend Play In Children's Cognitive Development (Bergen, 2002) discusses the impact of play on the development of cognitive skills including joint planning, negotiation, problem solving, goal seeking, and self regulation. Please read through the section titled: Problem Solving and Other Cognitive Strategies.[1] The following reading consists of a literature review on the developmental benefits of play. Please follow the link to pages 29-32.[2]and read about the developmental benefits of play in relation to the developmental domains covered in this unit. The developmental benefits of play are summarized as follows:

  • play is a healthy,essential part of childhood
  • research shows strong links between play and language, physical,cognitive, and social development
  • when children play they integrate all types of learning
  • play helps a child’s brain develop
  • outdoor play helps with children’s sensory and coordination development
  • play contributes to the development of early logical/mathematical development

Video Observation Exercise

Pin.gifThis video depicting children playing ball is a good example of self-initiated play.[3] As part of your observation analysis, think about and formulate written responses to the following questions:

  • What types of play are each of these children exhibiting?
  • What developmental domains are being accessed through this ball activity?
  • What observed behaviors support your prior response?

Pin.gifAfter completing your written responses, share and receive feedback from group members,or, if working independently, post your responses on the discussion page for feedback and respond to other participants' posts. For an analysis on this activity go to the video observation analysis page.


  1. Bergen,D.(2002).The Role Of Pretend Play In Children's Cognitive Development. Early Childhood Research And Practice, Vol.4 (No.1). Retrieved from http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v4n1/bergen.html.'
  2. Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Education. (September,2011). Developing A Provincial Early Childhood Learning Strategy (p.29-32).Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov.nl.ca/edu/earlychildhood/literature_review.pdf
  3. Early Childhood Australia. National Quality Standard Professional Learning Program (October 9, 2012).Practicing Skills [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7t7jYTvkT4&feature=plcp.


Keeping Imaginative Play In the Kindergarten Classroom

Unit One

Unit Three

Unit Four

Course Summary

Course Evaluation