Purposeful Play

What is Purposeful Play?

What does purposeful play mean? Why do we use it? Is it necessary in early childhood education? Can I do this at home? What does my child learn from this kind of play?

These are very good questions, and I will be answering them all. I promise. First let’s define what it means – we will use the definition from Google:

-“Ensure that enjoyable and meaningful play experiences are encouraged or created; and to promote and extend children’s learning and development towards meeting desired learning goals”.

Hmm, what does that really mean? Well, it means that child’s play should be fun and relaxed to encourage them to be creative and think freely. This helps them grow cognitive skills to build resilience. The idea of play means so much more than toys. Play means having a conversation about anything from “look what I built!” to “can I play with you?”. Purposeful play teaches so many skills that we use in everyday life.

For example, social and emotional skills, like waiting to take our turns to play with toys and waiting to talk next. We are also learning patience and resilience when things don’t go our way (problem solving skills). We learn how to cope by watching our friends deal with disappointment, which also builds our self-confidence.

When it comes to math skills and purposeful play, we often do activities that teach us how to measure objects both big and small, and determine if they are heavy or light, or sink or float. Resilience also has a role in our math play, like when we knock over a building and build it back up again.

Purposeful play can be used at home – all you need is time and love! When you do activities with your child, you are teaching them teamwork (cooperative play) by working together. Cooking is a great activity to do! It also teaches children new vocabulary, gross and fine motor skills, and math skills.

All in all, preschoolers are like sponges – their brains are still making connections with adults and their other surroundings. This is why it is key for ECE (Early Childhood Educators) to know that building a connection with each child is important.

All these skills can be taught through purposeful play, and they are all skills we use well into adulthood. These skills we use as adults: teamwork, resilience, patience, creativity. As adults, we sometimes forget how to just sit and play because we are so busy surviving. We need to remember that at one time, we had to learn these skills that we use every day. So enjoy playing with your kids – play teaching more life skills than we sometimes think!

Written by: Teresa Walsh (late Red Room teacher in Stow) 10.25.2023


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