The relationship between learning through play and holistic skills

Learning through play helps children develop the skills they need to thrive. And we’ve got an ever-growing body of evidence to illustrate it. Take a look.

We’ve always believed in the power of play

We’ve seen it for ourselves. When children play, they have fun, they experiment, and they don’t worry about getting things wrong. Play gives children the safe space they need to pick up skills that’ll help them thrive today and as they grow up. 

That’s what we think, but what does the science say?

Find out what the science says about play and learning

Play helps children hone holistic skills for a holistic world

Every day we rely on all kinds of skills without even thinking about them. From working out how to get from A to B, to quick mental maths, to simply chatting with friends, colleagues and loved ones. Almost everything we do uses more than one skill at once.

It’s the same for children. Take a toddler learning to walk. As well as the physical strength of using their muscles in a new way, they need cognitive skills to co-ordinate their arms and legs, and depth perception to navigate the path ahead. They’re managing lots of emotions too – excitement at trying something new, mixed with fear of the unknown or perhaps of letting go of a parent’s hand. We call these skills holistic as children weave all of them together to learn as they play.

There are five skills children hone when they play

Over 300 different studies have found a positive link between learning through play and developing those five interconnected skills.

Find out more about the 5 skills

Our recent report digs deep into the findings. Download it here.

So, what’s next?

There’s still so much we’d love to study. For example, we’d love to learn more about the part grown-ups play. So far, it looks like adults who guide children’s play, without controlling every move, help their children pick up those holistic skills even faster.

We’d also love to see:

  • more practical studies
  • work with older children (the majority of studies focus on 3–5-year-olds)
  • larger sample sizes (most are very small)
  • studies into more skills (cognitive skills like numeracy get the most attention)
  • work with children from more varied backgrounds and cultures

And, of course, play isn’t static – and it’s changed a lot since we first started studying it. How do computer and mobile phone games compare, for example? We are excited to see what comes out of this new and growing research area.

Evidence helps us make the case for learning through play all over the world. The more we can do to keep our data up-to-date, the stronger that case will be. We know learning through play works. Let’s keep showing it!

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