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How different styles of play encourage child development

Child’s play is serious business and the way your child plays has a lot to do with his or her development. Make sure to help your child to take part in several different styles of play for a well-rounded toddler.

children playing together on swingset

Imaginative play

Playing house is a lot of fun, but it’s so much more than that. Pretending to be mommy or daddy (or a doctor, a mailman, a firefighter, a super hero, etc.) teaches them a lot about the world around them. Pretending to be someone else both helps a child act out and understand the things they see and gets their imaginations moving. Most of children’s imaginative play comes in the form of role playing, but you’ll also see it when playing with doll houses and action figures.

Physical play

A child’s supply of energy is seemingly unlimited, so they need some type of physical play on a daily basis (and so do you, if you ever want them to sleep again!). Physical play is anything that gets them moving, running, jumping and being active. Not only is it great for exercise, but it also helps with large motor skill development and coordination.

Check out these ways to incorporate learning into play >>

Social play

Any time two or more kids play together, they’re engaging in social play and working on social interactions. It may look like they’re just having fun, but they’re learning to play together, cooperate, take turns, share and more. These are skills that will be beyond value for the rest of his life, so do what you can to encourage social play. If you don’t have other children in the house, consider joining a play group, visiting story time at a library, going to a playground or visiting a play area at the mall. Playing together also inevitably results in little (and major) quarrels, but they learn from those, too! Those first fights hurt, but they learn about apologizing and making up, as well as how bad behavior can lead to social isolation.

Find out about the importance of play >>

Constructive play

Hand your kid a set of blocks and see what happens — before too long, you’ll have an entire city on your hands. Any time your child builds something from objects around him or her, he or she’s participating in constructive play. This doesn’t have to mean blocks. It includes playing in sand, stacking cards, playing with sticks and much more. This type of play teaches kids how to manipulate things to become something else and how to figure out how things work together. He or she’s also learning how to manipulate objects and brushing up on hand-eye coordination.

What to do when your child is left out >>

Quick Tip

Don’t underestimate the power of solitary play! It’s just as important for kids to learn to play alone as it is to learn to play with others!

More about preschool play time

Lessons to teach while playing with blocks
How to teach your kids to fight fair
6 Classic games your child will love

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