Early childhood education and The importance of play in

If you want to work with children, it is essential that you understand the role of play in early childhood education and know how to use it to promote meaningful learning. It is no coincidence that one of the most important subjects of the first year of our Higher Degree in Early Childhood Education, available in person or remotely , addresses precisely the methodology of children’s play. We explain to our students the incredible importance of play in early childhood education and we provide them with different dynamics that they can apply in the classroom so that children learn in a playful way.


Play is not only fun and entertaining, it is a basic need for child development. Philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle had understood this and referred to play as a valuable tool for shaping the child’s mind and preparing children for adult life.

The psychologist Jean Piaget also understood the importance of play in early childhood education and stated that “ boys and girls do not play to learn, but learn because they play”. Through play, children discover the world around them and develop their skills and interests.


During the first years of life, play is essential for children to develop their motor skills and spatial orientation . Functional or exercise games facilitate balance and strength by consolidating motor milestones such as walking, jumping and running. On the other hand, manipulation games improve hand-eye coordination and improve fine motor skills, the basis for children to later learn to write.


” Playing for a boy and a girl is the possibility of cutting out a piece of the world and manipulating it to understand it, ” said Francesco Tonucci. Through play, the child develops a more accurate image of the world . As children play, they explore the properties of objects and phenomena, extracting valuable information about their environment. These playful experiences allow them to discover patterns and schemes, solve problems and plan their next steps, which contributes to the development of their thinking, attention and memory.


Interactive play, whether with peers or with adults, encourages the development of social skills. Through playful activities, children expand their vocabulary and improve their non-verbal communication skills . They make new friends and learn to share and cooperate, putting their first conflict resolution strategies into practice. They also understand how the adult world works by imitating their attitudes and behaviors, which helps them to appropriate social norms.


Play in early childhood education is also an essential pillar for emotional development. Thanks to playful activities, children learn to express and manage states such as frustration, anxiety or anger . The game allows them to release tensions and recreate their worries and fears, in a way that is a means to find solutions to their problems. In addition, the game is a source of positive emotions that makes them feel good about themselves, laying the foundation for a solid self-esteem.


Any child’s ability develops more effectively in a playful environment than in a rigid environment. Since any type of play that places new demands on the child becomes a learning opportunity, there is really no difference between playing and learning.

A study published in the International Journal of Play Therapy confirmed that play activities create optimal opportunities to enhance cognitive and social-emotional development in children. Play in early childhood education stimulates learning capacity by positively predisposing the child, making him pay more attention and be more motivated.

It is not by chance that in young children the learning capacity practically multiplies by three when they laugh and have fun, as researchers from the University of Paris V René Descartes have verified. The explanation lies in brain chemistry. Positive emotions increase levels of dopamine, a hormone that improves memory, enhances motivation, and facilitates learning.

As a future educator, you can take advantage of the potential of different types of games in early childhood education. The free game is ideal to stimulate creativity, imagination and child autonomy, but targeted games that follow a more structured pattern also offer excellent learning opportunities.

Through symbolic and representational play , for example, children assume the role of other people. Thus they develop empathy, reflect on the experiences of the other and begin to be aware of different perspectives. This type of game also enriches the language and consolidates the mental representations and social images that will allow the child to insert himself into society.

Instead, rule games convey to children the importance of rules for coexistence and help them to better understand their culture. When children play by following rules, they not only practice knowledge and understanding of those rules, but also respect for them and for their playmates, so they learn to respect others and develop self-control.

Therefore, if you want to become a Higher Technician in Early Childhood Education , you will have to use the game as your ally by creating an enriching learning environment where the child can develop their abilities to the maximum in a playful way.