Tips to Make the Most of Play Time

Giving a child the opportunity, time, and space to play helps to foster many important life skills. Engaging in play allows a child to explore different interests, passions, and talents. Play is a wonderful educational tool that helps prepare them for life experiences.


  • Limit screen time
  • Promote outdoor play
  • Allow for child to make mistakes
  • Give child free time to play outside of school and organised activities
  • Let child make choices about games, activities, and toys
  • Encourage use of imagination
  • Offer new challenges if child is bored or help if child is frustrated
  • Provide encouragement and support.

How to Use Play to Meet Milestones

0-6 Months

  • Show baby interesting objects such as a brightly coloured mobile or toy
  • Talk to baby often to familiarise baby with your voice, respond when they coo and babble
  • Place baby in different positions so they can see the world from different angles
  • Let baby bring objects to mouth to explore and experience new textures
  • Vary facial expressions and gestures so baby has the opportunity to imitate them
  • Use a mirror or favourite toy to help your baby engage in and enjoy tummy time.

7-12 Months

  • Play peek-a-boo
  • Use a mirror to show faces to baby
  • Provide baby with a safe environment to crawl and explore
  • Place baby in a variety of positions such as on tummy, side, etc.
  • Give baby opportunities to learn actions have effects, e.g. when they drop a toy and it falls to the ground
  • Expose baby to a variety of age appropriate toys, e.g. balls, shape sorters, music toys, or common household items like pots and spoons

1-3 Years

  • Allow child to spend time with objects and toys they enjoy
  • Give child crayons or markers so they can practice scribbling
  • Encourage child to interact with peers
  • Help child explore their body through different movements, e.g. walking, jumping, and standing on one leg
  • Provide opportunities to create make-believe situations with objects, e.g. pretending to drink out of empty cup
  • Respond when child speaks, answer questions, and provide verbal encouragement.

4-6 Years

  • Provide opportunities for child to sing, dance, and try a variety of movements, e.g. hopping, swinging, climbing, and doing somersaults
  • Tell stories to child and ask them questions about what they remember
  • Give child time and space to act out imaginary scenes, roles, and activities
  • Allow child to move between make-believe games and reality e.g. playing house and helping you with chores
  • Schedule time for child to interact with friends to practice socialising and building friendships


Stages of Play

When people think of play they often think of toddlers or young children, but you can start playing as soon as your baby is born. Play changes as your child develops and over time children should become more comfortable playing with others.

  • Unoccupied Play (Birth-3 Months):
    When a baby is making a lot of movements with their arms, legs, hands, feet, etc. They are learning about and discovering how their body moves.
  • Solitary Play (Birth-2 Years):
    When a child plays alone and are not interested in playing with others quite yet.
  • Spectator/Onlooker Behaviour (2 Years):
    When a child watches and observes other children playing but will not play with them.
  • Parallel Play (2+ Years):
    When a child plays alongside or near to others but does not play with them.
  • Associate Play (3-4 Years):
    When a child starts to interact with others during play, but there is not a large amount of cooperation required, e.g. kids playing on the playground but doing different things like climbing, swinging, etc.
  • Cooperative Play (4+ years):
    When a child plays with others and has interest in both the activity and other children involved in playing.


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