Five types of play to develop your child holistically

Play is one of our values at Cotlands and it is at the heart of what we do. We encourage adults to create the time and space to play to help children learn, develop and grow.

Children must have the opportunity to engage in the five types of play, which includes pretend play, physical play, playing with objects, symbolic play and games with rules. These five types of play develop children holistically.


Pretend play

Pretend play, also known as socio-dramatic play, free play, fantasy play or make-believe, is the most prevalent type of play amongst young children. It is closely associated with the development of cognitive, social and academic abilities. Private speech (children talking to themselves) often accompanies pretend play. Pretend play demands that children portray self-restraint and self-regulation, as they follow the social rules associated with the character they are pretending to be. Children who are exposed to pretend play become less socially disruptive and more socially connected to peers.

Physical play

Physical play includes active exercise where children are jumping, climbing, dancing, skipping, bike riding, and playing ball. It also includes rough-and-tumble play, with friends, siblings or a parent/guardian. Rough-and-tumble play involves play where there is chasing, grappling, kicking, wrestling or rolling on the ground. It promotes strong attachments between children and their parents, and with other children. Physical play generally takes place outdoors. The development of fine motor skills forms part of physical play, through activities such as threading and playing with clay. Physical play is related to children developing whole body and hand-eye co-ordination, as well as building strength and endurance.

Playing with objects

Playing with objects is present from a very young age, as soon as an infant is able to grasp and hold on to an object. Infants investigate or explore the object by mouthing, biting, rotating whilst looking, rubbing, stroking, hitting or dropping the object. This is referred to as “sensory-motor play”. Toddlers (eighteen to twenty-four months) are able to arrange objects, which progresses to being able to sort and classify. Children aged four are able to build, make and construct using different objects. When children play with objects, they typically develop a story or talk to themselves as they play. Children’s “private speech” helps them to maintain their attention, keep goals in mind, make strategic choices, as well as regulate themselves. Children’s perseverance is developed.

Symbolic play

Symbolic play is associated with children using language to describe play, do counting and basic operations, create drawings, the ability to talk about and understand pictures, as well as music, singing and dancing.

Games with rules

Children are interested in games with rules and from a young age they invent games with rules. Games with rules include games such as hide-and-seek, and as children develop, more intellectual games such as board and card games, computer games as well as sporting activities. Games with rules include a measure of competitiveness. In competitive play the child is concerned with the outcome, he wants to win or to do well or better than before. Playing games with rules helps children learn social skills related to sharing, taking turns, and understanding other’s perspectives.

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