Queensland Health has recently explored how play helps children learn, grow and have fun, and have come up with seven play ideas to spark your child’s imagination.

Play has a number of benefits, including facilitating healthy brain development and supporting children to learn about themselves and their environment. Play also encourages physical activity, which can improve overall wellbeing.

Access to safe environments to explore and play also has a positive impact on children’s social relationships. For families, playing together provides an opportunity for connection. When a parent or caregiver engages in child-driven play, they can see the world from their child’s perspective. Understanding this perspective allows parents to better communicate with their children.

Play can strengthen a child’s connection to the world around them and spark a sense of curiosity. Play-based experiences can also help children develop confidence and resilience, which is important for facing future challenges. These experiences facilitate a learning of social skills, including sharing, teamwork, negotiating and conflict resolution, all of which carry through into adulthood.

Play is important in all stages of their development, from when they beginning playing with toys as infants to adolescence.

From as early as 18 months, children will play alongside others. From then until the age of five, children progress from playing on their own to being interested in what others are doing. They practice social skills such as taking turns, and develop their imagination through role play and fantasy play.

Play can come in many forms, both structured and unstructured. Structured play is an activity with a specific learning objective, and is often guided by a teacher, parent or guardian. Unstructured or ‘free’ play is spontaneous and improvised and gives children the freedom to explore their own environment and make active decisions. It allows children to discover and engage with things that interest them and do so at their own pace. A mixture of both play options provides valuable learning experiences for children, regardless of their age.

To see the full list of play ideas, click here.