Benefits of Play

  • Child playing

  • Children need a variety of skill sets to optimize their development. Research shows that developmentally appropriate play with adults and other children provides opportunities to build the social-emotional, cognitive, language, and self-regulation skills that lead to executive function and brain development.
  • Play helps children build the safe, stable, and nurturing relationships with caregivers and other children that they need in order to thrive.
  • Research shows that play, specifically guided play, promotes children's optimal development across domains and results in greater learning and early childhood outcomes.
  • Play-based learning serves as a vehicle for children to develop new skills while also transferring knowledge and skills across content areas through natural, authentic, and meaningful use and integration.

    View research-based resources for more about the benefits of play

Play-based experiences offer children opportunities to build upon their natural curiosity, to explore, discover, and make sense of the world around them. It is well-established that children benefit most when education: 

  • is active with room for discovery and experiential learning through inquiry and reflection
  • is consistently engaging without distraction
  • is made meaningful through connections between new and prior knowledge gained inside and outside the classroom
  • is socially interactive with peer collaboration and adult support
  • is an iterative process with opportunities to develop, test, and revise hypotheses about how the world works
  • is joyful.

These playful learning principles and features of the learning environment enable students to gain six 21st century skills identified as the 6 Cs: collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence.
Learn more about the playful learning principles and 6Cs



Golinkoff, R. M., & Hirsh-Pasek, K. (2016). Becoming brilliant: What science tells us about raising successful children. American Psychological Association.

Hirsh-Pasek, K., Hadani, H. S., Blinkoff, E., & Golinkoff, R. M. (2020). A new path to education reform: Playful learning promotes 21st-century skills in schools and beyond. (Big Ideas Policy 2020 Report No. 28). The Brookings Institution.