Beyond Wooden Toys: Benefits of Playtime

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Chelsy Theriault, a mother of one and fan of wooden toys, shares the benefits of playtime!

The Benefits of Play

Written by Chelsy Theriault (

“Child's play” is more than a mere cliché to describe tasks that are easy, frivolous and unimportant in the overall scheme of things. To a child, child's play is essential to their mental, social, emotional and physical development. Children are guided by a natural instinct to play, beginning at birth with unoccupied play that will quickly develop into cooperative play by age four. It's obvious that children love to play but we may not understand the importance of play in a child's life.

There are six major stages of play that a child will develop throughout their early life.

  • Unoccupied play: the child may not seem to play with others but they are engaged with random movements. This stage paves the way for future play skills.
  • Solitary play: children tend to play alone with little to no interest of what others around them are doing. This stage of play teaches a child how to entertain themselves.
  • Onlooker play: when a child watches others but does not participate. They may comment on the activity or ask questions about it.
  • Parallel play: when children play side-by-side but do not engage directly with each other. They will typically play with similar toys and often times imitate each other. While it looks like there is no social contact during this play they are learning valuable social skills and cues from one another.
  • Associative play: when children begin to play together without a focus on a common goal. Children may still play with separate toys, but at this stage they begin to actively talk and engage with one another without any set rules of play. They may trade toys or comment on each others' activities.
  • Cooperative play: children are now interested in both the people they are playing with as well as the activity they are engaging in. Play now focuses on a group of goals or specific tasks.

Play and Physical Development

Play strengthens and refines small and large motor skills while building stamina and strength. Play provides a means for energy to be put to use. It also aids in developing sensory learning by allowing children to explore, learn and make sense of their environment through play.

Play and Learning

Through play children learn basic concepts such as colors, counting and problem solving. Thinking and reasoning skills are at work every time a child engages in some type of play.

Play fulfills many needs including a sense of accomplishment, successfully giving and receiving attention and emotional satisfaction. Children learn about fairness and appropriate ways of expressing and dealing with emotions such as anger, fear, frustration and stress.

Encourage your child to play!

Childhood is fleeting, so take advantage of these short years to help your child develop socially and emotionally. Be creative and be fun! And who may learn a thing or two along the way.


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