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Learning Through Play

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The research is clear about how children learn: Until roughly age 7, early childhood development is powered by play. Free play allows for the kind of trial-and-error essential to brain development in children, and the benefits of play are long lasting: When children are allowed to play and learn in their early years, they perform better academically later on; play hones the skills of school preparedness — problem solving and planning, among many others.

But it matters how kids play — and how parents and other caregivers play with them. In the early years, playtime should be all about interaction. In this section, you’ll find tips on how to play with a baby, even before they seem old enough to respond. As kids grow, the way they play changes. You’ll find a primer on this, as well as suggestions for play activities for kids that build language skills, motor skills, creativity and more across all age groups.

Play-based learning doesn’t occur in a vacuum, which is why this section also contains information about the tools of learning: Toys. In short, the best toys for kids are toys that don’t do anything — no batteries, no bells and whistles, no flashing lights. Because the less a toy does, the more the child does — and the more a child learns.

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