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State Library of Queensland

Baby playing with parent

Play is the work of children!

5 June 2024 | State Library of Queensland

Play to learn 

Have you ever heard the saying, ‘play is the work of children’? Well, it really is! While it might look like a lot of fun, and often is, play is how children learn - to use words, solve their own problems, use their imagination, practise new skills, to learn how to learn.   

From birth, your baby instinctively wants to play with you. Little brains are wired to interact and investigate, and when given the time and space to play with the important adults in their life, children thrive in the early years. 

Play doesn't need to involve expensive toys. YOU are your child’s favourite toy so play can be as simple as tickling toes, singing songs and rhymes or taking a walk together outside.  

You can help your child try new things and extend their learning by talking about what you’re doing together, asking questions, adding playful challenges and providing lots of encouragement along the way.  

Ways to play 

  • Creativity and experimentation 
    Children love making their own creations, drawing their own worlds, making up their own stories and inventing things. Learning to use tools can help your child problem-solve, use their imagination, and express their ideas so show them how to use sticky tape, shovels, pegs and scissors. Notice and talk about signs and symbols – you could make a sign together for a shop, pretend to write a doctor’s note or write a card to a friend. Use this as an opportunity to scribble, draw, paint and have fun with language!  

  • Challenge the senses 
    Help your child discover the world by talking about what they can see, feel or hear. Play provides lots of opportunities to explore our senses. Ask your child ‘How does it feel?’, ‘What does it look like?’, or ‘What sound does it make?’ and practise descriptive words like cold, fluffy, smooth, soft, hard, or rough. You'll be helping your child pma words to their thoughts and build their vocabulary.   

  • Mastery and problem solving  
    One of the greatest joys is to see your child grow and master new skills. When children solve problems through play, it shapes the structural design of their brain and potential for learning in later life. So, remember, the focus for your child is the PROCESS, which is where all the learning happens, and where they will discover that wonderful 'I did it' feeling.  

  • Building connection 
    Importantly, your child learns through the love, attention and language you share with them so find everyday moments talk, ready, sing and play together – you’ll help you give your child a solid foundation for a lifetime of growth and development.  

For more information about how you can support your child’s health and wellbeing and to keep up with all the exciting news about First 5 Forever, subscribe to our free monthly tips or visit a First 5 Forever session at your local library. And remember, you’re never too young to be a member of the library – you can join your little one up from birth.     

Discover other ways to play:  


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