15+ Types Of Play In Early Childhood (Benefits+How to Play)

Play is pure enjoyment at its most superficial level; kids love it because they are having fun! But beneath the surface lies something much more profound. Play is essential for child development.

Through play, young children learn basic skills, including self-regulation, social skills, and problem-solving abilities.

This article will look at each type of play and discuss how engaging in them can benefit your child’s development.

What is Play?

From a child’s perspective, play is an essential part of development. But what is it exactly? 

Play encompasses many activities that involve experimenting with materials, interacting with others, and using imagination to explore the world.

While children often view play as simply enjoyable recreation, it’s much more than that: play profoundly impacts the developing child, influencing their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional capabilities, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

what is play?

Language Skills

One of the most critical aspects of the play is its ability to build language skills. As kids explore an object or situation, they will comment on their discoveries which helps them develop a broad vocabulary base and more vital communication abilities.

Play gives children repeated opportunities to practice expressing themselves verbally, allowing them to communicate better in the real world later in life.

Problem-Solving Skills

Beyond language learning potential, equally as powerful is how play develops problem-solving skills within a child.

Right from recognizing patterns and adapting strategies for handling various situations to endlessly experimenting in a safe environment are the perks.

It serves as an exploration tool where kids can learn from successes and inevitable missteps – then make adjustments accordingly should something else be tried in search of more success.

problem-solving skills

Gross And Fine Motor Skill Development

Another area influenced heavily by play is gross and fine motor skill development.

Engaging in activities like drawing etches the neural pathways for writing well later on; pushing a toy car around encourages balance and strength for walking; climbing trees even has a role to play since it aids coordination!

All these scenarios enhance movement control when refined into adulthood – enabling better sports performance or increased dexterity when doing intricate work with hands further down our lives path.

Fostering Friendships Among Other Youngsters

Ultimately, one of the most significant benefits of continual playtime hours over childhood would be its effect on fostering friendships among other youngsters.

Allowing children to share experiences (while learning empathy) while experiencing genuine joy with those around them!

Adults, too, need such connections. So, imagine what our formative years lacking entertainment could negatively mean if not supplemented by free time directed towards fun periods.

Fostering Friendships Among Other Youngsters

The Benefits Of Play

Play is essential to every young child’s development; it helps foster curiosity and social skills that support emotional growth and self-expression.

Learning through practice and experimentation rather than instruction alone allows them to develop problem-solving skills.

In contrast, learning important lessons about responsibility, patience, and safety that stay with them throughout life’s challenges ahead. 

1. Promotes Physical Development

Play is one of the best activities that help a child to enhance their coordination and gross motor skills.

Children who engage in regular physical play activities find it easier to learn complex physical tasks such as climbing stairs or walking on different surfaces.

In contrast, children not exposed to such activity tend to lag in physical development during these formative years.

promotes physical development

2. Develops Social Skills & Teamwork

Playing with other children teaches kids how to work together, understand each other’s perspectives and resolve conflicts.

They learn how to cooperate with one another, take turns, share ideas, negotiate, and support each other while playing a game or working on a project together.

These skills help them build better friendships, inevitably resulting in better social relationships.

3. Encourages Creative Thinking & Problem-Solving Skills

Just like adults need their job to push their limits creatively and think out of the box, children too will benefit from situations where they have faced challenges. This will help them come up with solutions independently through self-discovery.

These skills are crucial for success later on in life; when faced with issues at work or when a tough decision needs to be made, having these skills gives us an edge over our peers.

encourages creative thinking & problem-solving skills

4. Improves Self-Esteem & Confidence Level In Kids

Playing games builds confidence as children figure out new strategies, challenge themselves, and learn from mistakes that help them make smarter decisions during future games or projects.

When kids feel successful about their accomplishments through play, this contributes significantly towards enhancing their feelings of security.

This eventually translates into higher self-esteem levels and tangible wins like winning a skill-based game or gracing family friends’ gatherings with outstanding presentations, etcetera.

5. Creates Emotional Wellbeing

Play also encourages healthy emotional development by teaching kids how to identify emotions like fear, happiness, anger, disgust, sadness, etc.

Ultimately allowing them to express any negative emotion safely without hurting anyone around, including themselves, through making silly noises shouting, roaring, jumping, etc.

This helps children cope with significant changes in their lives, like starting preschool enrolling in school, joining daycare centers getting registered into sports teams, losing parents due to divorce, etcetera.

Types Of Play In Early Childhood

types of play in early childhood

When it comes to playing in early childhood, there are many different types that children participate in as they develop.

Each style of play can positively affect the child’s cognitive, physical, and social growth while also helping them build language and creativity.

Various types of the game engage children during their early childhood, and they can be broadly divided into five categories: 

  • constructive play
  • physical play
  • symbolic play
  • imaginative play
  • fantasy play. 

Constructive Play

Constructive play involves building things with objects such as blocks and other toys.

When a child engages in constructive play, it encourages physical activity and cognitive skills like counting and sorting objects.

Constructive toys come in various shapes and sizes, allowing children to build something from their imagination, like castles or train tracks. 

It also supports language development as they tell stories about the characters they create while playing with these objects.

This type of play helps children develop problem-solving abilities by challenging them when using the given materials to try to create what they envision.

constructive play

Physical Play

Physical play is essential for developing motor skills and learning how our body moves within physical space.

Physical activities like running or hopping help build muscle tone and coordination while promoting balance, agility, and flexibility.

Gross motor skills are essential for later participation in school sports or physical education classes. 

Still, they can also help children socially when it comes to playing with peers because it promotes sharing of toys which leads to recognizing different social cues like taking turns or waiting your turn, etcetera.

Trying out new activities like dancing or climbing lets children expand their physical ability rather than just staying on all the time on digital devices indoors.

Symbolic Play

This includes pretending and make-believe scenarios such as housekeeping where objects become tools for completing specific roles such as feeding doll babies or washing dishes.

This helps foster creativity by allowing expression through gestures because symbolic meaning overrides the actual functionality of an object, i.e., a block becomes something other than a block. 

It also helps teach empathy since most role-playing requires consideration of another person’s feelings or emotions before deciding what action is appropriate next.

Symbolic play can also prepare children for more complex thinking by exercising logical understanding so that situations may be solved without prior recall or experience.

Imaginative Play

Imagination play describes an activity where children use their imagination to create new scenarios or situations.

It can involve make-believe characters or stories, pretending with objects around them, or engaging in make-believe scenarios such as pretend cooking or doctoring.

During imaginative play, children often use language skills to communicate and imitate how adults act in specific situations.

imaginative play

Fantasy Play

Fantasy play goes hand-in-hand with imaginative play; it is how children express themselves through something other than reality.

While imaginative play could feature just friends playing together or a group situation like pretend school, fantasy lets kids take those experiences one step further.

It enables the child to enter a ridiculous world where anything can happen—animals talk and fly around, people possess special superpower abilities, etc.

This magical universe encourages creative thinking while providing an outlet for expressing emotions they may not yet understand.

Ways To Teach Your Preschooler Through Play

Play is every child’s favorite way of learning. Preschoolers can develop essential academic and social skills through fun activities tailored to their interests. Here are some ways you can foster learning with your preschooler by using play:

Board Games

Board games are a fun way to teach preschoolers important skills like counting, taking turns, and following rules. Choose games that are age-appropriate and have simple rules that your child can understand.

Building Blocks

Building blocks are great for developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness. They can also teach children about shapes, colors, and sizes.


Storytelling is an excellent way to improve your child’s language skills and comprehension. Read books with your child and encourage them to ask questions and make predictions about what will happen next.

Outdoor Play

Outdoor play is essential for a child’s physical development. Take your child to the park, playground, or even just out in the backyard to run, jump, and play.

Sensory Play

Sensory play involves activities that stimulate your child’s senses, such as touch, sight, sound, and smell. This can include activities like playing with sand, water, or play dough.

Pretend Play

It provides abundant opportunities for children to improve communication, spur their imagination and have fun! Engage your preschooler in a pretend play activity introducing them to new words and social roles.

Incorporating everyday objects like regular household items encourages creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

Field Trips

Head out on a “field trip” with your little one! Letting them explore outside will stimulate their senses further and awaken their curiosity about the world. This could be anything from visiting the farm or going for a nature walk.

Whichever route you take, make sure there are talking points about new plants or objects along the journey to further spark conversations.

field trips

Art & Crafts

Crafting activities provide an avenue through which children learn how ideas become a reality – it also makes abstract concepts tangible!

You can do this at home; find simple arts and crafts projects online that require minimal materials, so they don’t become too frustrated while they stretch their imaginations.

This helps build fine motor skills and decision-making when choosing colors or shapes for specific projects.

Puzzles & Games

This type of play subtly reinforces problem-solving strategies without feeling like formal instruction, making staying engaged for extended periods easier.

Games like Jenga and puzzles allow children to connect between pieces, spot patterns in structure formations, practice strategic management, and more!

As an added bonus, having puzzles around is good since starting your day with educational games kickstarts better ways of thinking throughout the rest of the day ahead!

puzzles & games

Music & Movement

Rhythmic tunes get both bodies and mind moving together in perfect harmony!

Sing songs such as “The Wheels on the Bus” during bath time or dance along to age-appropriate music videos created especially for kids.

These activities are excellent for developing literacy because it entertainingly reinforces language comprehension while aiding physical development too!

Sorting and Matching Games

Sorting and matching games are great for teaching preschoolers about colors, shapes, and patterns. You can use objects like blocks, buttons, or beads for sorting and matching activities.


Cooking with your child is a great way to teach them about measuring, counting, and following instructions. Choose simple recipes like cookies or muffins that your child can help with.

Nature Walks

Take your child on a nature walk to teach them about the environment and the different plants and animals they may encounter. Encourage them to ask questions and explore their surroundings.

Memory Games

Memory games are a fun way to improve your child’s memory skills. You can play games like “I Spy” or “Memory Match” with your child.

Science Experiments

Science experiments are a great way to teach your child about the world around them. Choose simple experiments that use household items like baking soda and vinegar or food coloring and water.


Dress-up is a fun way to teach your preschooler about different professions and roles. Provide them with costumes and props that represent different jobs and encourage them to act out the role.

Pattern Recognition

Use simple objects like blocks, beads, or buttons to teach your child about patterns. Encourage them to recognize and create simple patterns like ABAB or ABCABC.

Math Games

Use simple games like counting games, number recognition, or simple addition and subtraction games to teach your child about basic math concepts.

Alphabet Games

Use games and activities that involve the alphabet to teach your child about letters and their sounds.

For example, you can play a game where you name an object, and your child has to name an object that starts with the next letter in the alphabet.

Language Games

Play language games like rhyming games or “I Spy” to improve your child’s vocabulary and language skills.

Shapes and Colors

Use games and activities to teach your child about different shapes and colors. Encourage them to identify and name shapes and colors in their environment.

Sensory Bins

Create sensory bins filled with different materials like sand, rice, or water beads to provide your child with a tactile sensory experience. Encourage them to explore the materials and describe how they feel.


Through play, young children learn basic skills, including self-regulation, social skills, and problem-solving abilities.

While children often view play as simply enjoyable recreation, it’s much more than that: play profoundly impacts the developing child, influencing their cognitive, physical, and social-emotional capabilities, creativity, and problem-solving skills.

Various types of games engage children during their early childhood, and they can be broadly divided into five categories: constructive play, physical play, symbolic play, imaginative play, and fantasy play. Play Improves Physical Coordination & Motor Skills.

Regular physical activity during play helps children become more agile, improving overall coordination.


What are the different types of play in early childhood?

The four main types of play in early childhood are exploratory, constructive, symbolic, and dramatic/imaginative. Exploratory play involves manipulating objects to learn about them and explore their properties.

Constructive play is when children build or create with materials like blocks or craft supplies. Symbolic play involves imaginative activities that represent something else, such as pretending to be superheroes or playing house.

Dramatic/imaginative play is when children act out roles or scenarios, often involving costumes and props.

What is exploratory play in early childhood?

Exploratory play involves manipulating objects to learn about them and explore their properties.

Examples of this type of activity include jigsaw puzzles, stacking blocks, playing with a magnifying glass to look closely at plant life, pouring sand into different containers, making towers out of cups, etc.

What is constructive play in early childhood?

Constructive Play is when children use materials such as blocks, building toys, and clay tools, to build things which can include models of buses and bridges; creative representations from salvage boxes like sorting buttons; drawings with paints or pastels often seen on paper or wrapping paper; or fabric art like cutting quilt pieces and stapling them together to create 3D shapes.

What is symbolic play in early childhood?

Symbolic Play involves imaginative activities representing something else, such as pretending to be superheroes or playing house.

This type of pretend activity allows children to practice using language related to events outside their everyday lives; it helps children make sense of the world by simulating real-world situations.

What is dramatic/imaginative play in early childhood?

Dramatic/imaginative Play is when children act out roles or scenarios while incorporating costumes, props, dialogue or song lyrics usually created spontaneously during their pretend activities, ranging from acting out adventures involving princesses and pirates to hosting fashion shows using clothing items from dress-up boxes, etc.

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