The Influence Of Play On Holistic Development Of A Child

Play is a natural and integral part of a child’s life. The influence of play on holistic development of a child is significant, as it plays an important role in the development of five key domains. Only when all the five domains are developed during early childhood, alongside each other, can the development be called holistic. Let’s have a look at each of them.

In this article:

  1. Influence of play on Physical Development
  2. Influence of play on Sensory Motor Development
  3. Influence of play on Emotional Development
  4. Influence of play on Social Development
  5. Influence of play on Linguistic Development

1. Influence of Play on Physical Development

Physical play is the most fundamental and essential for physical development of the child. Play is what helps in creating a healthy child. Regular physical activity not only promotes a healthy outlook towards good nutritional diet, it also promotes overall physical well-being.

During play, children exercise all parts of their body and develop their muscles. Physical play comprises activities that include certain movements of the body, physically, which allows children to channel their energy constructively and effectively. It also helps them learn to develop their fine motor skills and gross motor skills, and subsequently refine the skills.

One of the best aspects of play is that it helps children develop a good appetite and have a good quality sleep. Play that is highly active in nature helps a child in gaining a good muscle tone. However, the degree to which muscle growth happens depends upon the maturation of the body and the kind of opportunities that are available to the child to practice the skills involved in highly active play.

Most of the kindergarten and primary schools provide opportunities for the children to play using outdoor play equipment such as swings, slides, ladders, etc. Even if these items are not available at school, it is still possible for every school to make provisions for active physical play.

For example, a relatively lengthy rope (even a coir rope will do) with a piece of plank can be tied firmly to a strong branch of a tree that hangs low, which can serve as a swinging. Add a ladder to it and it can be used as climbing equipment.

Similarly, indigenous DIY (Do It Yourself) play equipment can be easily made using ropes or old tyres to make toy tree houses, swings and even tunnels, among others. Such equipment, when created, will not only help children have a lot of fun; but will also ensure all-round development of the child.

2. Influence of Play on Sensory Motor Development

There are two major types of motor development skills:

Gross Motor Skills deal with the coordination of large muscle groups which are responsible for activities like running, walking, etc.

Fine Motor Skills deal with the small muscle groups which are responsible for activities such as writing, zipping, buttoning, pinch grip, etc.

With the help of play, children will grow and improve their spatial orientation, and gain physical independence in the process. Genetically speaking, humans are designed to maintain spatial orientation on the ground.

Spatial orientation is the natural ability to maintain our body orientation and/or posture in relation to the environment (surrounding physical space), while at rest and when we are in motion. This is one of the aspects that emphasises on the importance of play in child development.

3. Influence of Play on Emotional Development

Play provides children the opportunity to express their feelings, be it happiness, anger, joy, fear, delight, distress or other emotions. Play is kind of a platform on which they are free to choose and express their emotions – as long as no one else is harmed.

Children often express their emotions through imaginary play, which cannot be expressed through or in any other situations. Play helps children to be able to recognise their feelings and even talk about it. When children are able to verbally express their feelings, over time, they grow up to become capable adults who can cope well in terms of stress and deal with their fears. They also become capable of responding to a given situation appropriately, rather than reacting to situations mindlessly.

Play helps children to develop the ability to focus on the task at hand and concentrate on it until it is completed. Play activities like puzzles, reading books, group games, etc., requires the child to concentrate on what he or she is doing for a specific period of time, thus improving his or her attention span.

A child who is unable to demonstrate the role of a leader in real life may get satisfaction for his or her desire by acting as the leader of toy soldiers.

Play is a crucial channel for children to release their pent up emotions or feelings of aggression and frustration, for which they can’t really find any other facilitating channel otherwise.

For instance, a child who cannot deal with a big bully physically (in real life) may release the pent up emotions during play/or activities, like hitting a punching bag/pillow or punching a teddy bear/stuffed toy and vent the tension out.

4. Influence of Play on Social Development

The role of play in holistic development of a child can’t be emphasised enough, as it plays a vital role in the success of a child in school. Since children develop and bond relationships through play, they learn the rules of social behaviour such as caring, negotiating, cooperating and sharing. Most of all, they also learn how to be a part of a group and how to behave as a member in the group.

Play kick-starts the process of social development of a child – right from the infancy stage. The development of social skills is considered as one of the most crucial impact of play on child development.

It starts and happens through the caregiver’s smile, laugh and hugs. And as he or she grows, the child responds to the outer world through these experiences, and begins interacting with others too.

Play is a fantastic platform that provides an opportunity for children to demonstrate their skills and abilities. They observe, learn, understand and realise what their skills and abilities are, and find out for themselves where they stand with that of their playmates. This self-analysis empowers them develop a more definite and realistic expectation about themselves, which in turn defines their self-esteem.

5. Influence of Play on Linguistic Development

Children learn what they see – and hear. A child therefore observes the behaviours and listens to the words of the caregiver(s) and tries to imitate them. Play time is one of the best times for a child to get plenty of opportunities to learn and speak his/her mother tongue (and other languages).

During infancy, the child starts communicating with the surrounding by making different sounds such as babbling and cooing, which they hear constantly as their parents and grandparents play with them. Later, with the encouragement of the adults, the child transitions to a stage where he/she changes the sounds into words.

Subsequently, play leads the pathway for them to learn verbal and non-verbal communication skills. Most importantly, children broaden their understanding of the world by observing and making sense of language, to begin with, and then through the experience of speaking the language.


Growth and development of a child is an obvious and definite process – thanks to nature. Having said,, holistic development requires the conscious and active involvement of the adults and caregivers of the child, which is where play comes into the picture.

That is why it is important that both parents and caregivers learn and fully understand the influence of play on holistic development of a child, and encourage children to play. After all, childhood happens only once.