Why is play important in early childhood?

There’s a lot happening during playtime. Little ones are lifting, dropping, looking, pouring, bouncing, hiding, building, knocking down, and more. Children are busy when they’re playing. And, more than that, they are learning. They are learning key scientific concepts, such as what sinks and floats; mathematical concepts, including how to balance blocks to build a tower; and literacy skills, such as trying out new vocabulary or storytelling skills as children “act out” different roles. Play is the true work of childhood.

When your children play with you, they are also learning—that they are loved and important and that they are fun to be around. These social-emotional skills give them the self-esteem and self-confidence they need to continue building loving and supportive relationships all their lives.


Resources to learn more about the importance of play in early childhood:   play (3)


Head Start_ Early Childhood Knowledge and Learning Center (ECKLC)

Early Head Start_ Active Play: Healthy Habits Starts Early

Early Head Start: Outdoor play benefits

International Play Association

Declaration on the Importance of Play


The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

Play and Children’s Learning 

10 Things Every Parent Should Know about Play

What the Research Says: Impact of Specific Toys on Play


Zero to Three

Tips and Tools on Play

Tips on Playing with Babies and Toddlers

Baby and Toddlers Playtime Ideas
These links offer ideas for fun playtime activities to do with babies and toddlers

Activities Bonding and Learning Birth to 12 Months

Activities Bonding and Learning 12 to 24 Months

Activities Bonding and Learning 24 to 36 Months


More resources:

Child Inc._ The Importance of Play

Back-to-Basics — Play in Early Childhood by Jill Englebright Fox, Ph.D