Child play & learning

Play is a child’s work. It develops their physical and social skills, and teaches children about the world around them. Encourage your child to be curious, and give them new experiences. Having a balance of active and quiet times with new and familiar activities helps them to learn. 


Aim to have toys that are suited to your child’s age, stage of development and personality. Try to find toys that can be used in different ways to develop skills and encourage imagination.

Playing with others

Sometimes children are happy playing on their own, and sometimes they like playing with adults or other children. You may need to help them learn how to get along with other children by talking about behavior, like sharing and taking turns. You may need to show them how to play together.

Activities for your child

Your pre-schooler may enjoy:

  • drawing, painting, and cutting with child-safe scissors
  • making pictures with glue and cut-up pictures, cards, magazines, leaves or material
  • talking about their pictures
  • playing with playdough. See recipe below.
  • looking at books and having stories read to them. They’ll often have favourite stories they like to be read over and over again. Libraries lend a variety of books and toys. Your child may enjoy choosing their own books.
  • telling made-up stories at bedtime
  • singing and dancing to music. This helps them learn words, memory skills and develop hand-eye coordination through action and the beat.
  • playing make-believe games and dressing up. Children often dress up in the opposite sex’s clothes. This is normal behavior.
  • playing with you, copying and helping you around the house with simple household jobs, like setting the table or putting away clothes.
  • watching you prepare meals and helping with things like adding ingredients and mixing. When you cook be careful to keep your child well away from the hot stove and hot tap.

There are also plenty of outside activities your child can do, also known as Active Movement

Independent play activities for children

Short periods of independent play benefit a child’s learning and development, helping them make connections and understand their world.

Below are some activities that encourage independent play and can be made ahead of time. You can add to them as you go. It’s always a good idea to rotate the activities and store them when they aren’t in use so that the children are excited to use them when they haven’t played with them for a while.

Some of these activities still require adult supervision, but your child can be left to explore the activity at their own pace.

Safety reminder: All babies and young children put things in their mouths. It’s part of exploring their world. When putting together your play kits, check that there are no small loose items that may be swallowed or cause choking, and there are not sharp objects that may cause injury.

Also be aware that long ties or ribbons can get caught on toys or other furniture, or small babies might suck on them and choke.

For some activity ideas - see here


Play dough recipe

Boil 2 cups of water in a saucepan or in a jug. Once boiled mix in:

1½ cups salt
1 tbsp cream of tartar 
3 cups flour
2 tbsp oil

Knead the mixture until it’s like dough. It should be smooth and warm. Add a bit more water if the dough is too dry.

Early childhood education

Pre-school services offer children the chance to learn and play with other children. Choosing the right pre-school services or childcare is important for your child’s happiness, development and social skills.

There may be a variety of options available to suit your family/whānau. Some services, like te kōhanga reo and Pacific nation language groups, help children become familiar with cultural values. It’s often a good idea to visit several centres to see what best suits you and your child.

Talk to Plunket staff, friends and neighbours to find out what’s offered in your community.

An interesting link from Plunket
Here's something I read on the Plunket website I thought you might find interesting.
Please separate with commas.