Alternative Education

Play! Play! Play!

Play! Play! Play!

Children and adults alike enjoy goofing around and socializing with others. Although it may seem like a waste of time or counter productive in a school environment, it’s not! Playing stimulates children’s intellectual, cognitive, and academic skills and supports social, physical, and emotional development. By playing, children are able to let their creative juices flow and be imaginative and inspired. This is beneficial artistically, mathematically, scientifically, etc. because it forces children to think about different topics from so many different perspectives. If in school, there is a problem that needs to be solved, children can use their resourcefulness and inventiveness to approach that problem from numerous outlooks and solve it.

Lev S. Vygotsky, a leading theorist in child development and literacy learning, places importance on the mental processes between literacy and play. He states that, “children take their first steps toward oral language and literacy through symbolic play when they naturally learn to use symbols in the drawings, markings, sculpting, painting, and imaginative worlds they create.” This means that as children are placed in playful situations, they are encouraged to explore literacy tools and use them, and that then gets translated in the classroom. Play permits children to:

  • Generate and work through ideas
  • Build knowledge
  • Make inquiries
  • Take risks
  • Develop problem solving skills
  • Develop fine and gross motor skills
  • Interact and work cooperatively
  • Explore, confront, and deal with change
  • Gain confidence
  • Be expressive, and many, many more

There are various types of play including: free play, solitary object play, guided play, social play, symbolic play, and pretend play.

Free Play

Recess! Free play allows children to do what they want without being supervised, guided, or structured. This allows their imaginations to travel as far as the horizon and a sense of power is obtained.

Solitary Object Play

Solitary object play allows children to explore the features and properties of items as their intellectual skills are put to test. This development is enhanced with the exploration of blocks, dolls, toys, and items in the world around them because they are individually discovering the world and drawing their own conclusions.

Guided Play

Guided play encourages children to go beyond what they know or are comfortable with by having a parent or teacher work with them. This kind of play allows them to solve problems, perform tasks, and interact with more knowledgeable people, thus pushing them to do more.

Social Play


Social play occurs when children are playing with toys in a setting where other children are also playing. Although they may not be necessarily playing together, they are observing the behaviours of others and learning from it. This type of play encourages children to create friendships and socialize.

Symbolic Play

Symbolic play allows children to turn everyday objects into extraordinary things, such as a cardboard box into a house, or a pencil into a magic wand. Children learn to manipulate items and make them something else, which allows them to build cognitive skills and create meaning that makes sense to them.

Pretend Play

Pretend play encourages children to become creators and artists. Their imagination runs wild and they act out whatever it is on their minds. This gives them the opportunity to play with the make-believe and invent non-existent worlds that they then become a part of.


The preceding was adapted from The Cornerstones to Early Literacy by Katherine Luongo-Orlando, published by Pembroke Publishers.