Occupational Therapy helps kids play!

Occupational Therapists help children with developing their play skills.  Kids begin to engage in play activities from very early infancy.  Playing peekaboo with mum and dad, or being lifted and spun in the air, are early activities that children enjoy. What a lot of people don’t realise however, is the immense learning that your child is gaining through play. Play is a crucial element of a child’s normal development.  What may seem to be a simple way for children to entertain themselves is actually a complicated learning process that has relevance for all areas of a child’s life.

Children as young as 2 years can benefit from seeing an Occupational Therapist to work on developing their play skills.

Play is the space where your child is learning without any pressure, anxiety or fear of failure. It is a safe zone created by children where they are learning and developing the  following skills:

  1. Cognitive capacity, language development, social interaction, turn taking, storytelling
  2. Motor Skills: Fine motor, gross motor and postural control
  3. Problem solving: attention, initiation, sequencing, working memory, planning and organisation
  4. Environmental learning: exploration and experimentation


What to look for in your child’s play: (considering their interests)

  • Are they exploring objects and sensations
  • Is your child over 18 months and engaging in pretend play. This usually involves children using realistic objects to act out familiar actions. For example, feeding dolly with a spoon, playing house, putting teddy to bed.
  • Is your child using symbols in their play such as an empty box as a bed for teddy or an imaginary sword when fighting dragons- beginning at 2 yrs
  • Is your child playing with construction toys (blocks, lego, train tracks) – around 3-4yrs
  • Is your child beginning to play with other children rather than just beside them 3-6yrs


Sometimes it can be difficult to know when to seek help for your child’s play routines. Below are some reasons to seek help with one of our Occupational Therapists:

  • When your child is using repetitive behaviours such as banging, dropping and throwing (over 18months of age)
  • When your child doesn’t tend to engage in pretend play, even after you’ve tried to scaffold or model a game for you to play together
  • Your child is having difficulty playing and sharing with other children
  • Your child doesn’t appear to have an interest in expanding their play routines. For example, playing for a sustained amount of time or developing their play sequence past the one action, such as simply pushing a toy car backwards and forwards.
  • Your child appears to have difficulty initiating play on their own or with other children
  • Your child has difficulty managing and organising a play space .e.g getting the tools they need for the play
  • Your child has difficulty organising themselves for play, e.g. sitting or standing for the play
  • After you engage your child they have little or no interest in playing with you or imitating you


Play is the medium for children to learn about their world and about themselves. If you have any concerns about your child’s engagement in play or play development, please feel free to contact us to chat with our Occupational Therapists or book an assessment online today.


Bre Surawski- Occupational Therapist