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The Importance of Play

11 Sep 2019 General, Babies and Toddlers, Preschool, Preparatory and College

Play is the highest form of research” (Albert Einstein), and essentially play is a child’s ‘work’. It is widely recognised amongst early childhood practitioners that play is crucial to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and young people. Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development, believed that play allows children to expand their thinking and helps them to make sense of social experiences.

There are many types of play; social, adventure, pretend and physical, to name a few, but broadly speaking, there are two main types:

Structured Play 

Structured play is organised and happens at a fixed time or in a set space. It’s often led by an adult and has a desired objective or objectives. This type of play can support children’s learning by providing direct learning support through purposeful activities carefully planned by an adult. When adults provide developmentally appropriate structured play, children can successfully learn new skills, knowledge and attitudes in a safe and comfortable setting.

Structured Play at Mount Kelly Hong Kong
Structured play allows for guided learning.

Unstructured Play

Unstructured, free play is the best type of play for young children. It is child-initiated and just happens, depending on a child’s interests. This type of play is not planned and lets a child use their imagination and move at his or her own pace.

When unstructured play time is provided to children there is great potential for the scaffolding of learning (supporting children to move onto the ‘next steps’ in their development), by providing experiences, resources and time with minimal adult ‘interference’. When prompted by their interests, the environment around them and playing amongst other young learners, children develop attention skills, interpersonal skills, working memory, cognitive flexibility, emotional regulation, creativity and imagination. All these skills are critical skills for supporting them with later academic learning, laying the foundations for literacy (reading and writing), mathematical comprehension and an understanding about the world around them.

Above all, play is fun and offers an ideal opportunity for adults to fully engage with children of any age. Its function in the life of a school is vital for happy, healthy, bright and connected citizens of the future.

Unstructured Play at Mount Kelly Hong Kong
Through unstructured play children are able to develop social skills and their imagination.

Play at Mount Kelly

Mount Kelly International Preschool and Nursery School’s play-based approach to the British Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum fosters children’s holistic development. Through meaningful structured and unstructured play activities children are supported in developing their potential and at their own pace, with a curriculum tailor-made to their individual needs and interests. We aim to instill a love of learning they can take with them throughout their years in education and into the future.

Visit our website and contact our Admissions Team to learn more about our play-based education!


Written by Abigail Carr

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