Starfish Therapies

January 9, 2013

Play This, Not That

I am so excited to have Dana from Embrace Your Chaos guest posting here today!  She is a mom and an occupational therapist and has some amazing ideas and great things to share so make sure you check her out at Embrace Your Chaos.  I hope you enjoy her post here as much as I did! (PS – I included the photos)

Just as there are better choices for the foods that we eat, there are also better choices for the types of things our kids play.  Some salad dressings are better for us than others, some brands of chips are better than others, and even some fast food burgers are better than others.  In just the same way, some board games are better for development of your child’s skills, some organized sports are better for our kid’s gross motor coordination, and even some video games benefit our kids more than others do.


As adults with tons of responsibility and long lists of “to dos,” we tend to forget about why play is so important for kids.  Some of us get caught up in running errands and in the things we have to get done while some of us tend to over-schedule our kids, both resulting in less time to engage in play with our children.  Play is a vital part of a child’s life for many reasons.  It develops creativity and social skills.  It provides a natural context for the child to learn and problem-solve.  It motivates kids to challenge their gross and fine motor skills.  The list could go on and on.  While it is our responsibility as adults to go to work, pay the bills, and clean the house, it is a child’s primary responsibility to learn and grow through play (while also helping to clean the house from time to time).


It is even more important in our current society that we, as parents, encourage our kids to play.  With growing expectations at school, entailing more time at the table and more homework, and with the growing fascination of electronics, our kids are engaging in play less and less.

Corbin - Construction

With all types of play, including electronics, there are some choices that are better for encouraging development of our kids’ skills than others.  When thinking about play, consider these factors:

  • What are the sensory experiences?  How many sensory systems does the activity incorporate?  Does it get the child moving, exploring, and touching?  Also consider if the activity is too over-stimulating, which many video games tend to be.
  • What are the physical components?  Does the activity challenge the child’s coordination, balance, strength, and/or endurance?
  • What are the social opportunities?   Does the play activity provide opportunities for turn-taking, sharing, group problem-solving, or conflict resolution?
  • What are the cognitive aspects?   What are the opportunities for problem-solving, for following multi-step directions, for learning to sequence, and for learning other concepts and ideas?
  • What are the fine motor and visual motor components?  Does the activity work the small muscles of the hands?  Does it develop the manipulation skills needed for a good pencil grasp? Does it encourage the eye-hand coordination skills needed for handwriting development?  Does it improve the fine motor skills needed to manipulate fasteners, tools, and other small objects?

Some of these components may be more important for some kids than others.  Some children may need more opportunities to build their gross motor skills while other kids may be struggling more with their social skills.  It is ALWAYS important to give a child opportunities to create and choose his or her own play activities; but, there are also times when it is appropriate to provide direction to ensure their play tasks target the areas that will benefit them.  Take video games for instance.  The Wii will provide a greater challenge to your child’s coordination and gross motor development than the X-Box.  “Mother May I” may engage more cognitive and sensory-motor skills than “Tag.”  And gymnastics may provide more calming and organizing sensory input for your child than soccer.

corbin cake18

Most of all, don’t forget the importance of all types of play.  And remember that play is one of the best ways to foster your child’s development and target the skills your child needs.  When thinking about how to best encourage your child’s skills through play, remember these different components to find those activities that provide your child with the “just right” experiences and challenges!

Be sure to check out Embrace Your Chaos’ “101 Ways to Play” series to find great play activities and learn more about how play can foster your child’s development!


  1. […] sure to check out Embrace’s guest post on Starfish Therapies’ Blog to read about the importance of play and to find out how play can help to improve any and all of […]

    Pingback by Play This, Not That! | Embrace Your Chaos — January 9, 2013 @ 2:19 pm | Reply

  2. […] C.  Play This, Not That […]

    Pingback by 2013 Recap and Top Ten Posts | Starfish Therapies — January 1, 2014 @ 5:18 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: