Different kinds of play are important for a child’s development


When parents hear “messy play” they think disaster – dirt, mud, paint and playdough everywhere. But messy or sensory play for children is so much more than this – it unlocks their potential and is important for brain development.

At Acorn, we understand that key areas of development stem from sensory play and need to be a part of everyday learning. But how can parents incorporate this into their children’s lives every day?

Start with small experiences like allowing your children to self-feed, picking up different food textures to taste. Let them explore the outdoors, the sand at the beach, the grass in your backyard or touching the bark on the trees.

In addition to messy and sensory play, imaginative play extends a child’s ability to learn. So, the next time you see your child playing and getting messy with everyday objects like Tupperware containers, egg rings, their dinner, and toys, encourage them and join in.


New Zealand childhood specialist Nathan Willis talks about how the human brain has four areas. The last part of the brain to develop (the 4th brain) won’t be fully developed until around eight-years-old. This part of the brain allows us to read, write and listen.

So why are we so focused on sitting our children down to learn numbers, letters, colours and shapes? They need
to be able to climb and know how far they can go, then hang from the tree branch, allowing them to develop their grip skills.

Using these parts of our body allows us to be able to hold a pencil; then because we were able to play pirates swinging in trees, we have the imagination to put stories together.

Studies have shown how important it is for children to engage in risky play. When our grandparents were little,
they played on playgrounds made from cement and iron. Of course, we must provide safe play spaces for our children, but we should also think about how we can let our children discover the world, allow their minds and bodies to grow, and make mistakes knowing that they can get up again.


Jessie Munzenberger and Rachel Lynch are directors of Acorn Branyan and Acorn East childcare centres.