“Play Play Go Away, Come Again Another Day”

We are in a World Driven by Academic Success and Rigorous Standards

Now, more than ever before, it is essential to recognise the tremendous value of play in early years education. Play is not just a momentary distraction; it is the foundation upon which fundamental early learning is built. Recent trends, such as some schools discouraging play in favour of early academic approaches, have sparked concerns about the impact on children’s development. it is a sad state of affairs when we must we shout out against this and talk about the vital role of play and the myriad of benefits it brings to young learners.

The Significance of Play

Statistics reveal the profound influence of play on early learning. Studies have shown that play informs up to 85% of brain development during the first five years of life. It is through play that children explore, discover, and make sense of the world around them. Let’s delve into the remarkable benefits play offers:

  1. Emotional Development: Play provides a safe space for children to express and regulate their emotions, fostering emotional intelligence and resilience.
  2. Sensory Exploration: Through play, children engage their senses, developing sensory integration skills, and enhancing cognitive processing abilities.
  3. Physical Growth and Well-being: Active play promotes gross and fine motor skills, coordination, and physical fitness, laying the groundwork for a healthy lifestyle.
  4. Executive Functioning: Play nurtures critical cognitive skills such as attention, problem-solving, decision-making, and self-regulation, all vital for future academic success.
  5. Social Skills: Play enables children to develop essential social competencies like sharing, turn-taking, cooperation, and conflict resolution, nurturing positive relationships.
  6. Problem-Solving Abilities: Engaging in imaginative and open-ended play encourages creativity, flexible thinking, and problem-solving skills, empowering children to approach challenges with confidence.

Misinformed School Leaders: Neglecting Play

Unfortunately, I have read all to often, the increasing number of instances where reception teachers in have been pressured to minimise play in favour of more academic approaches to ensure children are “school-ready.” However, this approach disregards the crucial learning opportunities embedded within play and can have detrimental effects on children’s learning outcomes.

By depriving young children of play, we undermine their natural curiosity, autonomy, and joy in learning. Instead of cultivating a love for exploration and discovery, we inadvertently stifle their innate desire to learn and grow. It is essential to advocate for a balanced approach that acknowledges the power of play alongside academic pursuits.

Impacts of Taking Away Play on Children’s Behaviour

When play is diminished or taken away from children’s lives, it can have significant consequences on their behaviour and well-being. Play deprivation often leads to increased levels of restlessness, boredom, and frustration among children. They may struggle with self-regulation and exhibit disruptive behaviours as a result of unmet developmental needs. Additionally, children deprived of play may experience difficulties in social interactions, as they lack opportunities to practice and develop essential social skills such as cooperation, communication, and problem-solving. The absence of play not only robs children of joy but also hampers their holistic development.

The Seriousness of Not Meeting Children’s Needs

Failing to meet the needs of young children, including their need for play, can have far-reaching consequences on their overall development. Play is not a mere recreational activity but an essential component of their cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth. Denying children the opportunity to engage in meaningful play hinders their ability to explore, imagine, and make sense of the world. This can impede their curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking skills, limiting their potential to become adaptable and lifelong learners.

By neglecting the importance of play, we deprive children of the optimal conditions for their well-rounded development, which can have long-term impacts on their academic achievements and overall success in life. As Early Years professionals we are advocates for the child, their voice when they don’t have one and we must ensure we meet the needs of the whole child, including their need for play, to foster their optimal growth and potential.

Embrace Play and Empower Learning

It is our responsibility to champion the significance of play and advocate for its rightful place in early learning environments. Let’s challenge the notion that academic rigour alone ensures school readiness. By embracing play, we empower children to become resilient, creative, and confident learners.


Play is not a hindrance but a gateway to unlocking the full potential of young minds. Let’s create nurturing and inclusive spaces where children can explore, create, and thrive. Together, we can transform early years education into a joyous journey of discovery, enabling our children to reach new heights of learning and growth.

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