22 March 2018

Sometimes people overlook or underrate the value of play. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who dismisses play as not ‘proper’ learning?

Early childhood educators know play is essential for all areas of children’s learning, development and wellbeing.


  • Helps children feel good about themselves
  • Builds resilience and confidence by enabling children to engage with the world around them, learning about their abilities and having mastery over experiences.
  • Supports children’s social and emotional development
  • Is a protective factor for mental health
  • Influences wellbeing in positive ways: KidsMatter website has many resources
  • Develops confidence by providing opportunities for children to have power over what they do and what and how they learn.

What is our role as educators, in supporting children’s play to build resilience and influence wellbeing?

Children decide what to play and how to play. Play can be pretending, learning a new skill, dressing up, being active or being quiet. Play can be with other children or alone. Play can grow out of children’s interests or interactions with each other.

Educators support children’s play by:

  • Understanding how children learn and grow
  • Helping children feel safe and to be safe
  • Providing time to play: all children have a right to play. Are there blocks of uninterrupted time for play in the child’s day?
  • Providing a place to play: Is the environment engaging?
  • Being aware of not directing the play: allowing children to make the decisions and lead (Adults can join in if they are invited: children have different ways of signalling they would like adult’s involvement but children should always make the rules - except rules for safety)
  • Allowing children to use their creativity: not imposing limits on thinking
  • Providing opportunities for children to play with others
  • Giving children the opportunity to replay the world that they experience and build knowledge from that
  • Allowing children to express feelings and practise roles so they can negotiate the give and take of relationships and develop empathy
  • Offering guidance by modelling ways or assisting children to join in or leave play situations
  • Supporting children’s play by acknowledging the child’s feelings
  • Planning for intentional teaching experiences: sometimes educators intentionally guide children towards play situations to practise developing skills.

Play Builds resilience in young children