Developmental Play is a new approach that ensures children have the fundamentals in place for their cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth. Some children struggle because they do not have these foundations. It is helpful to visualise Developmental Play as a pyramid where each level builds on an earlier one. Ensuring that each level is solid—which may involve going back to rebuild it—is the key to the success of this approach.
For example a child who can’t sit still may have missed out on the Developmental Play level of sensory-body play. Once they are confident of where their body is in space, they can sit better and time in class is more productive. A child who reacts badly to change can go back to the Developmental Play level of messy play to learn about cause-and-effect and how to tolerate unpredictability. A child who is awkward around other children will benefit from revisiting the Developmental Play level of social, symbolic roles and rules. Simply, mastery of each level brings confidence and overcomes many problems that hold children back.
Developmental Play trains teachers, parents, carers and therapists to identify if a child has missed out on a level of play and would benefit from going back to it. It gives tried-and-tested playful exercises for each level of development. Developmental Play emerged from wide-ranging professional experiences in physiology, psychology, education, therapy, and arts and creativity. It builds on proven strategies for children’s cognitive, physical and social development. What makes this approach unique is that it combines all earlier interventional strategies to give children holistic support. It is particularly effective for children with special needs, learning difficulties and trauma. Play is the cornerstone of human development. It helps children learn about their physical and emotional world. It teaches children that they can have impact. It shows them how to collaborate. It is the language of childhood. And it’s fun.
Finally, Developmental Play is associated with a global drive to bring play back into childhood. The Real Play Coalition launched in 2018 by the LEGO Foundation, IKEA, National Geographic and Unilever seeks to bring play back into childhood. A recent report from the World Economic Forum concluded that: “We must equip our children with the tools to address and embrace the new realities of tomorrow. To do this, we must allow them to develop through play. Fewer play moments mean fewer opportunities to develop the skills children need to thrive in the dynamic, challenging economies of tomorrow.”
Developmental Play joins this worldwide initiative to take play seriously so that all children can reach their fullest potential.