What are the different types of play?

There are many ways to stimulate brain and body development, and much of it starts with play! Playing is an essential part of early childhood development, and encompasses many activities that your child may already be doing. Allowing your child to explore the world (under adult supervision, of course!) will help their curiosity and creativity blossom. There are so many ways to play, and each provides unique benefits for your child! We’ve outlined some popular types of play that you may want to encourage as your child ages to support their healthy development.

Open-ended play: Open-ended play is play without boundaries that allows children to express themselves freely. This can look like play with blocks, household objects, or other items that do not have a set purpose. Open ended play is a great way for children to explore their creativity and independence!

Independent play: Independent play is when you allow your little one to create their own fun, solo (with parents remaining nearby or supervising, as needed)! Playing independently can help your child build creativity and problem-solving skills, as well as foster emotional control and regulation. 

Sensory play or toy and object play: Sensory play engages your child’s five senses! The world is full of new and exciting sounds, sights, smells, tastes, and textures that your baby will start to notice from the moment they’re born. Even prior to birth, babies start to recognize their mother’s voice and smell!  

Outdoor play: Outdoor play is exactly what it sounds like - play in the great outdoors! Playing outside allows children to build skills like spatial awareness and balance, and can also help improve their attention span.

Rough-and-tumble/physical play: Physical play can be as simple as sliding down a slide or playing tag! Engaging in movement can help build your child’s confidence as they take “risks” in a safe environment, as well as help with socio-emotional skills like empathy as they engage in play with others.

Pretend play: Pretend play includes dress up, make-believe, and imaginary play. Your little one can experiment with playing different roles such as teacher, student, or doctor. Imaginary play can encourage creativity and communications skills as they work with others to create a pretend world or scenario.

Collaborative/cooperative play: Collaborative play is play that requires teamwork! Children will learn to take turns, negotiate, follow rules, and compromise as they work with other children to reach a common goal like winning a game or making a project.


    This article has been reviewed by our team of experts.

    Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute medical advice. If you have concerns about any health or medical condition, diagnosis, or treatment you should consult with your pediatrician or a licensed healthcare provider.