What Children Need for Play

Children need the following things to develop and promote play:

  • new experiences for high-quality play
  • chances to explore and experiment with new materials
  • uninterrupted playtime
  • safe and developmentally appropriate toys (appropriate for the child’s age and ability)
  • safe spaces to explore freely without being restricted
  • a small amount of quiet time to process what they have learned before beginning a new activity

Children do not need:

  • fancy or expensive toys
  • toys that claim to make a child smarter

The most important “toy” for young children is you. Children love the time they spend with adults, and learn best through face-to-face interaction with other people. Young children do not necessarily need expensive toys. Play can be just as effective with everyday things from around the house — such as a box, a wooden spoon, or a plastic bowl — as with pricy toys that may be outgrown quickly.