3 Effective Ways How Holistic Development Can Be Promoted Through Play

The holistic development of a child happens by catering to and nurturing the development of all the characteristics of growth in the child. Play is one of the best ways to nurture growth and development in a child, and there are 3 effective ways how holistic development can be promoted through play.

In this article:

  1. What is holistic development?
  2. Why holistic development is essential?
  3. The 3 effective ways how holistic development can be promoted through play.

What is Holistic Development?

Holistic development of a child (or even an individual) is the development across five dimensions:

  • Physical
  • Mental
  • Emotional
  • Social
  • Intellectual

When a parent or teacher intends to approach growth and development in their child holistically, it means that they are not solely focused on academic performance only, but rather academic performance along with the five dimensions as mentioned above.

When it comes to children, what is fascinating is that even a seemingly silly or normal everyday activity at home, school or anywhere, can in fact provide a holistic learning experience in a child. This is because unlike adults, a child’s view of the world is filled with curiosity, experimentation, exploration and new experiences.

Compared to a normal activity, play is a high-concentration activity where a lot of energy and focus is channeled. It’s not surprising therefore, that holistic development can be promoted through play.

That’s why it becomes important that parents, caregivers and teachers look at them as a whole person from the perspective of learning and development. To be more specific, a child should be looked at as an individual, as all the domains of development are highly interconnected.

For instance, when children grow physically, not only are they growing in size and shape, they are also developing their own individual ideas, feelings and thinking – all happening at the same time. Both development and learning, therefore, are interconnected, inseparable and most of all – interdependent.

As results of this study indicates, when both parents and educators view child development as a collaborative method where both play and learning occur parallel to each other, they automatically open the doors for a holistic approach and therefore extend support for their children’s overall growth and development.

Also Read | Why Is It Important for Parents to Play With their Child

The Importance of Environment for Holistic Development

One of the key facts that can’t be emphasized enough, is that the physical, social and emotional environment within which children live, has a powerful and often indelible influence on the effectiveness of learning opportunities for them.

An example of holistic development in early childhood is with regard to relationships. The ability of children to develop relationships with others is affected by their self-esteem, their ability to think and communicate freely and effectively.

It is therefore important to remember that children gather a lot of experiences and learn a lot through what is called Unassisted Play, which in turn helps in their cognitive and emotional growth and development.

Children Learn Faster Through Play

The rate and pace at which young children learn and develop is far too rapid than an adult. Through play they just don’t enjoy, but they also learn and experience new things. They get to know themselves and how different they are from others, as they notice others.

Another example of holistic development in early childhood is gender identification, where children are able to distinguish between boys and girls – without being taught about it.

Experiences Help in Learning and Develop Attributes

To begin with, by giving an insight into his or her own abilities, play helps a children build their self-worth and gives a sense of feel-good about themselves.

Since children often get absorbed in what they are doing while playing, it helps them in developing important attributes like focus and concentration.

Play also helps them in developing a number of other attributes. For example, when children play with water and sand, they develop their sensory perception through their experience of the texture of liquid along with the mixture of other substances.

In a similar way, through games such as throwing and catching a ball, they develop their ability to control their strength, flexibility and coordination skills.

One of the key and arguably the best aspect about play, is that it develops curiosity in children, and it only keeps getting better with time and experience. Curiosity makes children always keep asking How, Why, What, Where and Which-related questions to adults, so that they can satisfy their urge to learn and know new things and understand them well.

Why is Holistic Development Essential?

Holistic development in children is not only essential, it is fundamental. Only if they develop across the 5 dimensions (Physical, Mental, Emotional, Social and Intellectual), will they will be able to grow into a capable, productive and responsible adults who can serve their family, community, society, nation or the world.

Children’s thought process during infancy, which is a cognitive ability, is predominantly developed through activities. This is why just by the time they are 3 years, they are able to express their needs themselves verbally. By that age, they also talk to people and engage in conversations with their friends.

By 3 or 4 years, children are capable of not only understanding what their father, mother, siblings and other adults talking to each other, they are also able to interact with them, therefore developing and enhancing their social attributes.

The 3 Effective Ways How Holistic Development can be Promoted through Play

Promoting holistic development in a child is fundamentally all about facilitating an environment where the child can be exposed to many experiences, be it at home, in school or anywhere else where the child is under the care of his or her parent, caregiver or teacher.

Let us discuss promotion of holistic development in a child under the following three heads.

1. Allow Learning to Happen by Experiencing

When it comes to adults, most people know about many things but very few people know how to actually do things they ‘know’ about. Adults are mostly about theoretical knowledge and very less about applied knowledge.

When it comes to children, learning different tasks by doing and experiencing them is by far the most important way in which they learn about the world around them. For example, the only way a child can learn and understand the difference between breakable and non-breakable things is by experiencing it themselves by actually breaking a glass – mostly by accident and rarely otherwise.

It is a well-known fact that learning by doing is arguably the best way to learn something. The best thing about doing something is that most if not all the facts can be easily understood by experiencing it, rather than being taught or said. Children just can’t picture the facts just by listening to someone lecturing to them.

For instance, one of the basic things a young child does not understand is that a flame or fire is hot, is harmful and should therefore not be touched. However, all that is only theory for them, as they have not experienced it in their life.

The only way, which is also the best way that fact can be understood by them is by feeling it once themselves, when they accidentally or intentionally touch the flame or fire (out of curiosity).

Similarly, children can learn the facts about science easily if they are be explained and learned through play activities. For instance, when a child throws a stone into water, they learn that it sinks to the bottom.

But when they throw a light object like a feather, stick or a piece of paper, they learn that they float. From these two experiences, they learn about the concepts about weight, relative weight (light and heavy), sinking and floating.

After repeated experiments post the experience, and after many clarifications from adults, they learn the science behind the facts. Rather than allowing them to experience these activities, if they are merely lectured to about the concept, it would be anything but clear to them. Most of all, they may find the lecture boring!

2. Facilitate the Development of Multi-Dimensional Attributes

Children have a very short attention span, which is natural. Unfortunately, it is a common sight in many formal preschools, where teachers only talk and children only listen most of the time.

While this may be fine in secondary and higher secondary classes as they indeed need to learn a lot of theoretical concepts, it is anything but appropriate in a preschool setting, as children easily get bored and distracted due to their very short attention span.

Most children can neither be engaged in just one activity for a long time, nor can they sit in one place for most of the time. That’s why imparting concepts for young children should happen only through play, as it is a highly effective method for them to learn.

Since play involves lot of physical energy, focus and concentration, it helps them in holding their attention in one activity for a relatively long period of time. The focus and concentration during play is what helps them make interpretations, inferences and conclusions, which help them learn.

3. Make Play Fun, Stimulating and Rewarding

Play is not something that can be entrusted with a child by an adult, as it is an activity which the child enjoys by doing it at their own will, simply because they find it enjoyable. Play is a purely voluntary activity and can never be compelled upon.

It is therefore be unfair adults if they embark on a spree of thrusting their ideas and/or point of view on children, let alone expecting them to enjoy and learn from the activity.

Play can be a stimulating and rewarding experience for them only when they are given the freedom to play at their own will, in their own way, adopting their own style and choosing their own time. Unless they find it interesting and challenging, children just pick up on an activity.

Play helps children in many ways. It is a medium of self-expression, a way to relax, have fun, interact with others, develop social skills, improve concentration skills, learn cooperation and coordination, think on their feet, be creative, develop their imagination, enhance their visualisation skills, develop motor skills and be physical fit – among many others.


Given the backdrop that development in a child should happen across all the 5 dimensions, namely physical, mental, emotional, social and intellectual; what parents, caregivers and teachers should always keep in mind, is that while academics are indeed important, it mostly caters only to one of the dimensions – intellectual.

The 3 effective ways how holistic development can be promoted through play, on the other hand, can have a very constructive influence spread across all the 5 dimensions of growth and development in a child.

Most of all, the lessons learned and attributes gained through play during childhood goes a long way to help children to grow into well-rounded adults, therefore helping them lead a life with confidence and positivity. Chances are, they will grow up to be caring and responsible leaders too!

Also Read | 3 Effective Ways How Holistic Development can be Promoted Through Play

Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.