Playtime Helps Foster Crucial Kindergarten Readiness Skills

Play is nature’s way of teaching children new skills.1 By interacting with objects, people, and the world around them, children learn about their environment. These experiences build and strengthen new brain connections and develop important social skills such as sharing and how to handle conflict. It doesn’t take expensive toys to stimulate a child’s brain development. Instead, a child’s most important resource is a loving and interactive parent. In this sense, parents are not only a child’s first teacher, but are also their first play buddy. Through play, parents help to encourage their child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Play Enhances Cognitive and Language Skills

Through play, a child learns to focus for longer periods of time. Planning skills are integral to play since children must think about what they are going to do and how they will do it. By thinking about sequences of events, children improve their ability to problem solve.2 Play also encourages language development.3 Through play, children communicate with each other. Parents can encourage language development during play by speaking in longer sentences and introducing new vocabulary to describe the qualities of toys and movements.

Play Encourages Physical Development

Through grabbing, throwing, standing and running, young children begin to expand their motor skills. One important physical development milestone is a child’s ability to balance. While they play, children develop a sense of balance.4 Through active movement, children are actually building strong and healthy bodies and minds.

Social-Emotional Learning and School Readiness

In addition to physical growth, play provides an opportunity to develop social and emotional skills. Pretend play allows children to take on a new identity and experience the world from a different perspective. Play encourages creativity, and increases self-confidence.5 Playing house, for example, children work on building related vocabulary. Through pretend play, children acquire more advanced language and social skills, show more empathy, and are more imaginative.3 Additionally, these children tend to be less aggressive, more self-controlled, and engage in higher thinking processes.

When children play in groups, they practice and develop social skills vital to being successful in kindergarten. Negotiating, sharing, properly resolving conflicts, and group-forming skills are all a part of playtime, and are also integral to kindergarten readiness.6 Playtime even strengthens a child’s ability to calm themself by allowing the chance to practice walking through stressful situations.


Gray, Peter. (2009). The Value of  Play IV: Play is Nature’s Way of Teaching Us New Skills. Freedom to Learn Series: The Roles of Play and Curiosity as Foundations for Learning. January 2009. Available here.

Ginsberg, K., Milteer R., and Council on Communications and Media Committee on Psychological Aspects of Child and Family Health. “The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds: Focus on Children in Poverty”. The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. December 2011. Available here.

Miller, Edward & Almon, Joan. “Summary and Recommendations of Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School”. Alliance for Childhood. 2009. Available here.

The Urban Child Institute. Better Brains for Babies Training Manual: Touch, Talk, Read, Play. 2011.

Anderson-McNamee, Jona K., Bailey, Sandra J. Montana State University Extension. The Importance of Play in Early Childhood Development. April 2010. Available here.

Brotherson, Sean. What Young Children Learn Through Play. North Dakota State University Extension Service. September 2009. Available here.