“They’re just playing”

Hmm it’s a bit more than that. 

When children are playing, they are learning, and developing skills that will last them a lifetime; they are bonding and socialising, using their wild and wonderful imagination, nurturing and developing lifelong skills, and so much more. 

The importance of play is crucial for your child’s development. In this article, we’ll take a look at what exactly is play and how children play, the importance of different types of play, and how at Dre Twt we’ve considered all this in creating a unique play experience for your little ones. 

Let’s take a look.

Understanding Play

Play is very much a state of being. As Dr Stuart Brown describes it:

“Play is a state of mind that one has when absorbed in an activity that provides enjoyment and a suspension of sense of time” [1]

When babies are born, not all the neurons in the brain are connected. It’s the environment and situations around them that create the connections – playing strengthens and creates new connections in the brain allowing for the development of physical, social, emotional, and cognitive capabilities.  

Children need to play to learn, grow and strengthen their abilities. Play can take place indoors or outdoors; it is within these environments that the children learn about the world around them. 

Play can be spontaneous and natural for some children. Others may need some encouragement from adults and peers; they may need some modelling on how to play; or may need someone to play with them, or alongside them.  

Dre Twt’s play space is specifically designed to encourage adults to play alongside and engage with their children. You won’t see a big seating area or an actual cafe (only the play cafe 🙂). We actively encourage adults to play – trust us, you’ll enjoy it as much as the kids! 

Structured Play vs. Unstructured Play

There are many different forms of play – for this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at structured and unstructured play, what they are, examples, and why both are important for child development. 

Structured play can be defined as having a set of rules, a start, middle and end, and will have a clear goal or intention. Often there will be an adult present, whether participating in the game with the children to direct them, or they could be by the side observing and assessing.

Examples of structured play include:

  •  Jigsaw
  •  Board games
  • Sports

Unstructured play, you guessed it, is the opposite. Sometimes this can be referred to as free play.  

It’s about letting the children choose their activities, without an end goal or rules to follow. Children can play with friends and family, or by themselves. Unstructured play allows children to use their imagination and be free to express themselves. 

Examples of unstructured play include:

  • Dressing up 
  • Role playing 
  • Playing outdoors in sandpits/climbing frames/parks etc.  

At Dre Twt, we have an array of unstructured play opportunities for children such as the dressing-up stage (Llwyfan Mali), cafe Rhys, and the vets to name a few. 

Although we have spoken about the difference between structured and unstructured play, as with everything in life, balance is key!

We’ve looked at the benefit of both types of play, one is not more important than the other. At Dre Twt we pride ourselves in creating this balance. 

Yes, the children can explore the setting and areas in an unstructured manner where they choose where and how to play. 

However, there has been much thought and planning into what exactly is in each area that will develop the children’s abilities and skills. 

Let’s take Caffi Rhys area as an example and list some of the learning that takes place due to the structured and planned placement of certain items:

  • Fine motor control and writing from the pad and pen when they take your order;
  • Understanding healthy eating when creating a smoothie;
  • Knife safely and food handling when cutting up the food (using pretend food and knives of course!) 
  • Identifying, recognising and vocalising numbers whilst using the till, there is also a board with prices and a clock placed in the cafe;
  • Food placement and cooking from knowing what is kept in the fridge/cupboard and if it needs to be cooked in the oven/saucepan/microwave etc;
  • Language development from displays and lists which are bilingual in both Welsh and English;
  • Colour and shape recognition from the cupcakes (if you’ve visited us before, you’ll know what we mean 😀) 

We could go on… as you can see, what is strategically placed within the areas all promote independence, social and life skills, learning and development. 


Incorporating Play into Daily Life

The majority of the areas at Dre Twt are what we do daily; cooking, shopping, working etc

As parents and caregivers, it’s important that we understand the importance of play for our children. Life can be extremely busy, we don’t want to keep adding to our to-do list; instead, let’s try to incorporate play into daily activities. 

When out shopping, we could look out for certain numbers on prices; count how many apples we place in the bag; or talk about where specific food is kept in the shop e.g. yoghurts are kept in the fridge to keep fresh. 

Most children enjoy helping adults – cooking is a great example. If children are too young to help with cooking, maybe they could sit with some utensils, banging a wooden spoon against a saucepan for example, listening to the different tones and pitches they are creating.   

Play, in some shape or form, can take place all around us. 



World-renowned psychologists Piaget and Vygotsky emphasised the importance of play for children: for children to be engaged in activities without rigid rules, allowing them to explore, create, and develop problem-solving skills. 

Why is play important for children’s development? Because it’s the key to unlocking a world of possibilities, where they can grow, learn, and develop life-long skills with an endless amount of imagination sprinkled on top.

Visit us at Dre Twt role-play centre where you’ll find an environment specifically created to provide first-class opportunities for learning and development through play.  

Play is magical. Take a look at the children’s faces the next time they are engrossed in play. 

[1] https://www.nifplay.org/what-is-play/the-basics/