Children, through their many forms of play, mark out alternative paths to learning and, hence, child development. The diversity of ways to learn is clear from the wide cultural variations in early play. ‘One size does not fit all’ is play’s message to learning.There is no universal theory of child development.Individual children take different play paths, guiding their learning through play that is most appropriate to their capacities and potential. They cleverly avoid what they already know or might find too difficult to understand.
There are two reasons – some barely appreciated – for emphasising play in child development. First, play can unlock children’s diverse ways of learning. Second, it helps develop learning outside the classroom.