What Is Developmental Play And How Can It Benefit Your Child?

What Is Developmental Play And How Can It Benefit Your Child?

"Children learn all their early life skills through play; it is the language of childhood - one we have lost as adults" - Caroline Essame

Despite the act of play being a seemingly organic and naturally occurring milestone in a child’s life, not all children take well to all components of play. Children diagnosed with developmental disorders and learning difficulties, and those that have experienced trauma, for example, find it difficult to engage in certain milestones of play. This is where Developmental Play comes in. 

According to Caroline Essame, founder of CreateCATT, a Singapore-based Social Enterprise providing creative arts and play-based training and therapy services, developmental play is a new approach to understanding how and why children play, and how they develop through play at different stages.  

“The concept is not necessarily about structuring play but understanding how children play at different stages of development and what opportunities we need to give them so that they develop holistically – socially, emotionally, physically, and cognitively. Children learn all their early life skills through play; it is the language of childhood – one we have lost as adults!" Caroline states

Developmental Play

What is it and why is it important for your child? 

developmental play

Developmental play pyramid. Source: Createcatt


As illustrated in the image above, “Developmental Play is like a pyramid where each level builds on an earlier one. Ensuring that each level is solid for a child, which may involve going back to rebuild it, is the key to the success of this approach. The Developmental Play training gives you the skills to identify if a child needs support, and exercises and activities to support them," Caroline states. 

It is a new approach to train children and their families to foster the fundamentals in place for a child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional growth. Due to various factors, some children struggle with these foundations.

“For example, a child who can’t sit still may have missed out on the Developmental Play level of sensory-body play. Once they are confident of where their body is in space, they can sit better and time in class is more productive. A child who reacts badly to change can go back to the Developmental Play level of messy play to learn about cause-and-effect and how to tolerate unpredictability. A child who is awkward around other children will benefit from revisiting the Developmental Play level of social, symbolic roles and rules," Caroline notes. 

As a child climbs up each rung of the pyramid, he or she masters the component, thereby bringing about confidence and helping them overcome the problems and fears that they hold back. 

At the forefront of human development is the concept of play. It is the first step in helping children learn about the physical and emotional world around them. In addition to playing being fun, “it teaches children that they can have an impact. It shows them how to collaborate. It is the language of childhood. And it’s fun."

“The programme trains teachers, parents, carers, and therapists to identify if a child has missed out on a level of play and would benefit from going back to it. It gives tried-and-tested playful exercises for each level of development," Caroline notes. 

Createcatt conducts online training on why play matters as a tool to help parents foster interest and engagement in this kind of play in their child. 

Parents can also look up the videos and free resources on their website www.developmental-play.com, including their “stay at home play at home" resources for introducing the developmental play to their child. Parents can also benefit from the book the founder has published: “Fighting the Dragon Finding the SElf- why art and play matter in early childhood", written specifically with Asian parents in mind, and available on Kindle via Amazon. 

developmental play

Book on developmental play, by the founder. Source: Caroline Essame.

Developmental play: Whom is it for? 

The approach is unique in that it integrates all previously established interventional strategies to give children support in a more holistic manner, and is particularly effective for children with special needs, learning difficulties, and trauma.

However, according to Caroline, developmental play is for all children.

“Play is for all children and the Developmental Play model was developed for all adults that work with children or have children so that they appreciate why play matters for learning and development," Caroline notes.

What Is Developmental Play And How Can It Benefit Your Child?

The programme is for both children and their caregivers and families. Photo: iStock


The programme engages both the children and their families, as the adults involved in their lives can support children to learn through play. 

“It is a model for parents and families to understand why play matters and how it works based on the latest global best practice in play theory and practice and years of observation of how children play. [Developmental play] is for both – it works with children because it is their natural medium to learn and it helps adults support children to learn through play," Caroline notes. 


Also Read: Here’s why it doesn’t matter which toys your children play with!

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