Group Programme / Module 3 The importance of play

Play is special for tamariki.  Not only is it fun, but it's also important for healthy development.  It is their 'work' and their way of learning about the world.  Play is a child's main job.  Play with parents strengthens attachment.  Play helps tamariki learn about the world and their place in it.  Play helps pēpi develop in different ways: emotional development, physical development, learning and brain development, talking and reading, and social learning.


  • To understand that whānau are a child’s first and most important playmates.
  • To know that all children do most of their early learning simply through playing.


Begin the session with an appropriate settling in time — for example, karakia, gathering thoughts, waiata, simple hellos. This is an opportunity for people to share what’s going on for them if they wish. 

Mix and match from the pūtea of workshops.  Tailor the session and choose workshops that you think would work best for the group at this time.

Background information

Introduce the topic of the day, ‘Play’. 

Play is children’s work 

Play is special for children. Not only is it fun, but it’s also important for healthy development. It’s their ‘work’, and their way of building confidence and learning about the world and their place in it. It’s their main job. 

Through play, children try out new skills, explore their imagination and creativity, and develop relationships with other people in their lives. 

Playtime is family time 

Play can be an especially powerful bonding time for whānau and their children. Playtime with children can bring out the best in us. 

The beauty of this learning and growing time is that the motivation for a young child to play is already there — enjoyment! And when it’s shared with another person, especially one who loves you, it’s even more enjoyable. 

You don’t need anything special 

You don’t need a special ‘playtime’ or special toys. Doing things together that you enjoy — that’s play. 

Developing baby’s brain 

Play helps to develop a baby’s brain. When a young child is playing, they’re using all their senses to experience the world. Their brain is developing because brain cells connect due to new and repeated experiences. 

Learning social skills 

When you’re playing games that have a component of repetition, like ‘pakipaki o ringa’, ‘this little piggy’, or ‘peekaboo’, a baby is learning about being a partner in a game. They’re learning social skills too — how to take turns, join in together and imitate what you do. 

Anything can be play 

Parents and whānau are a baby’s first and most important playmates. Anything can be turned into play. Getting dressed, household chores, hanging out the clothes, sorting the washing and shopping are all opportunities to have fun and watch children learn and grow. 

Play has so many benefits 

Through play, babies and children use their developing senses: touch, sound, taste, smell and sight, to explore and gain a sense of wonder about the world. 

Play helps them learn to think. It teaches them to notice things, to improve their memory, and encourages imagination and creativity. 

Play also helps children develop problem-solving skills 

It helps them gain knowledge, skills and confidence through their exploring, testing, persisting and succeeding — and that makes whānau feel good about their parenting role.


SKIP resources 

Plunket resources

  • Plunket: Thriving under five — ‘Play and learning’ section for each age.
  • Plunket: 30 days of play

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