The Education Network for Waltham Forest
Supported by Waltham Forest

Importance of Play

Early Years Foundation Stage

The Benefits of Play

Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength. Play is important to healthy brain development. It is through play that children at a very early age engage and interact in the world around them.

See '42 quotes on the importance of play'.

The Wisdom of Play

David Elkind, Stuart Brown, Larry Schweinhart, and other early childhood experts record their thoughts on the importance of play. Read how play is a child's way to make sense of their world, and why it is an essential part of emotional and physical well-being.

The Power of Play

What power does play have in the lives of children today? Despite growing mountains of evidence that active, self-directed play is vital to young children's development, a surprising number of parents and other adults question the value of time spent in play.  Continue reading

Play and the revised EYFS

This free booklet and PowerPoint training details how children's play naturally fulfils the revised EYFS, and cross-references that play to the statutory guidance.

The guide is divided into sections based on the activity areas seen in most early year's settings. Each section then gives sample observations, and says how the play that takes place meets the seven areas of learning and development. The guide is easy to use and will give practitioners the confidence to demonstrate compliance to Ofsted. 

Learning, Playing and Interacting - Good practice in the Early Years Foundation Stage

How play and learning are related is not as straightforward as it may seem at first glance. There is a significant body of knowledge showing that many forms of play help children to learn and to become confident learners for the future. Research also shows that a skilled adult who interacts with children in particular ways to enhance their learning is a crucial ingredient in children making good progress.

Download this guidance document

Going out to play with Fred the Ted - getting children outside

A resource to support practitioners in providing play opportunities in the outdoors.

Open-ended play with blocks and simple materials (I made a unicorn)

Although children's play just happens spontaneously, it is complex and comes in myriad forms.

One universal type is open-ended play, also known as free-flow play (Bruce 1991), in which the children themselves determine what to do, how to do it, and what to use. Open-ended means, 'not having a fixed answer; unrestricted; allowing for future change'. In the course of such play, children have no fear of doing it wrong since there is no 'correct' method or outcome; and observant adults are privileged with insights into children's development and thinking.

Download 'I made a unicorn'.

All about schemas

What are these schemas?

Schema is a word for the urges that children have to do things like climb, throw things and hide in small places. Schematic behaviour appears through play in the way children choose to do things, or what they desperately need to do out of the blue!

Schematic behaviours are important building blocks for the brain as the repetition helps to forge links in the brain, which in turn aids development.

In this short paper 'Schemas and young children's learning' Cathy Nutbrown sets out a few thoughts about schemas, and how parents and practitioners can identify them, and respond to support their learning.

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Last updated: 
Tuesday, 7 March, 2017
Last updated: 7 March 2017 by Barry Fong