Potential Occupational Therapy for Children


The Importance of Play

Through play children learn about their bodies and the world around them. It’s a child’s job, or ‘occupation’, to PLAY. Through play children have fun, learn new skills, learn how to get along with other children, be independent and express themselves.  Play is complex and can be viewed in many different ways. Play does, however, have to be FUN and be child directed. As your child gets older play will change from unstructured, free play to making up games with rules where they master social skills in communicating, negotiating, and learning about winning and losing. They learn to problem solve and control their impulses. And just as importantly…play allows children time and space to feel free, be curious, experience wonderment and delight.

“Men do not quit playing because they grow old; they grow old because they quit playing” Oliver Wendell-Holmes, American Physician, 1809-1894

What can parents, caregivers or families do to enrich their children’s play experiences?

  • Provide sensory rich experiences such as playdough, slides, balls of different textures and weights, water beads, sand, paint, magnets, adding essential oils to the materials to make them smell great! Just think about your five senses and get creative.
  • Encourage manipulative play including LEGO, playdough, board games, puzzles, elastic bands, beads, pegboards, and marbles.
  • Promote imaginative play with puppets, stuffed animals, telephones, blocks, cardboard boxes and tubes, toy furniture, capes and dress ups. Materials for pretend play do not have to be expensive as any object can turn into another object!
  • Create opportunities to play with your child and complete activities that your child enjoys. Allow them to experiment during play and follow their lead…try not to be limited by the purpose of the toy…perhaps today the empty milk bottle is actually a rocket or it’s actually a mobile phone). Model how different toys can be played with so the child can see new and exciting ways that blocks or boxes or a teddy may be used. Play in different locations…perhaps the beach, the bedroom, the grass outside. Make sure that you are face to face with your child so that there is a sense of engagement. Most of all show them that you are having fun, and that playing is enjoyable.

At Potential Therapy Services for Children we love to play and know the benefits of learning how to play. You’ll always see us playing during our sessions, and this is because we understand that through play your child is learning life skills, cognitive, social, emotional and motor abilities that lead to making and maintaining friendships, communicating with others effectively, problem solving and understanding and engaging in the world around us.  

Play, like any occupation, requires practice, and it’s a skill in itself! If you have any concerns about the way your child plays, the time for which they play alone, any difficulties within the development of friendships and knowing how to play with others, engaging in limited or repetitive activities, or being fixated on screen devices to the point of not engaging in other play opportunities; then please feel free to speak to your Occupational Therapist, Speech Pathologist or Physiotherapist at Potential Therapy Services for Children and they will be more than happy to assist.