How Does Play Affect A Child’s Emotional Development?

Playtime is an important part of a child’s life because it greatly influences their emotional development. As parents, we frequently prioritise academic and physical activities for our children while overlooking the importance of letting them relax through playing activities.

In this blog post, the answers to “How does play affect a child’s emotional development?” will be unravelled, as well as how understanding this can help us better support their emotional growth and well-being.

The Benefits of Play on Emotional Development

Many parents in the twenty-first century have become aware of the benefits of play on emotional development in recent years. It can have a significant impact on a child’s emotional health, as well as assist them in developing valuable skills that will tremendously benefit them.

Below is a deeper dive into the numerous ways that children can become better versions of themselves through play in general:

Encourages Self-Expression

Children who are encouraged to express themselves through unstructured play have the chance to explore and express their emotions through imagination and creativity in an unharmful and supportive environment.

They might use art materials to create a visual representation of their emotions or act out a story to help them process a traumatic experience. This can help them develop the ability to effectively regulate their emotions.

Children who know how to express themselves well emotionally will develop in a better manner.
Children who know how to express themselves well emotionally will develop in a better manner.

Develops Empathy and Understanding of Others

Playing with other kids around a child’s same age is a golden opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of others and comprehend their points of view.

For example, when playing with dolls or action figures, children can imagine themselves in the shoes of their favourite characters and experiment with various emotions and reactions to varied situations.

Helps Children Learn How to Deal with Strong Emotions

As children grow and learn, they will meet a wide range of new and challenging emotions like frustration, anger, and sadness. By playing, children can explore those emotions and develop the resilience needed to deal with the ups and downs of life.

Playing with blocks or other construction toys, for example, can help children develop patience and perseverance as they work through challenges and overcome obstacles. Role-playing and imaginative play are two other examples.

Enhances Social Skills and Builds Relationships

Humans thrive on connections with others as social creatures, and play provides an ideal opportunity for children to develop and practice social skills that will serve them throughout their lives.

Playing with others, for example, can teach children how to compromise and communicate effectively, assisting them in developing strong, supportive relationships with other people.

Promotes Positive Self-Image and Confidence

Children frequently experience insecurity and self-doubt when growing up, which can be overcome through the act of playing.

They can gain a sense of mastery and achievement by participating in activities that they enjoy and are confident in, which aids in reinforcing their positive self-image. Play also allows children to take risks and try new and challenging things, which is an important part of developing confidence and a growth mindset.

Play-Based Approaches to Emotional Development

Research from the American Psychological Association (APA) and other reputable organisations has shown that play-based activities can assist children in developing crucial emotional skills like empathy, self-awareness, and resilience.

For further explanation, we have listed four well-known play-based approaches and activities that can aid in emotional development for children:

Play Therapy

During sessions of play therapy, children are encouraged to take part in types of play-based activities, such as free play, role-playing, and many others. It is believed that play is children’s natural language, which is an important part of their emotional and social development, and this method is based on that.


“Role-playing” involves using one’s imagination and creativity to investigate various social and emotional situations.

This therapy tool allows children to experience, understand, and find solutions for different perspectives by allowing them to take on different roles and explore a variety of scenarios that may be difficult to experience in real life, such as conflict resolution or expressing emotions.

After participation, whether it be done individually or in groups, children can learn about key social skills to improve their future lives, like cooperation, problem-solving, and empathy.

Mindfulness Activities

Playful breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and sensory exploration exercises are common mindfulness activities for children. They allow children to explore their inner world and cultivate a sense of calm and self-awareness.

Mindfulness activities can be tailored to kids of all ages and abilities, performed alone or in groups, and easily integrated into daily routines, making them versatile and effective tools for emotional development.

Art and Music Therapy

Art and music therapy use creative and expressive activities to provide children with a nonverbal outlet to express their feelings and thoughts naturally and comfortably.

Art and music can help children speak for themselves without actually raising their voices at the time.
Art and music can help children speak for themselves without actually raising their voices at the time.

Art therapy is used to help children express themselves creatively by using art materials such as paint, clay, and collage. It can help children improve their self-esteem and confidence while also teaching them important emotional regulation skills.

Music therapy, similarly, involves using music and sound to help children learn to express themselves through music, develop their creativity, and build important social skills such as communication and cooperation.

Practical Tips for Encouraging Play to Foster Emotional Development

Here are some practical tips for encouraging play thoroughly examined so that parents can foster children’s emotional development and support their emotional well-being:

Providing Safe and Accessible Play Spaces

Providing children with safe and accessible play areas allows them to engage in play without fear of physical harm or emotional stress. Those play spaces should be free of hazards and offer a variety of play options to accommodate different interests and abilities.

When children feel comfortable in their environment of play, they are more likely to engage in exploratory, active, imaginative, and social play. All of them have been shown to support emotional development in addition to helping them learn about their surroundings.

Allowing Children to Choose Their Activities

When toddlers can choose their activities freely, they feel more in control of their surroundings and can develop a sense of autonomy. This can foster emotional intelligence in children.

They would be more likely to engage in meaningful and enjoyable play as well, which can lead to increased levels of cognitive development, assisting them in developing skills like problem-solving and creativity.

Children can also learn to navigate social dynamics and work together to achieve common goals when they play together.

Participating in Play with Children

By participating in your child’s play, you demonstrate that you value their interests and ideas, and you strengthen your relationship by increasing trust and intimacy. This can make your child feel safer and more supported.

Children can also learn to regulate their emotions, communicate their needs, and practice empathy and cooperation through play. Parents can help their children develop these skills and emotional intelligence by modelling positive behaviours and providing guidance and support.

Besides playing with other kids, children love to play with interactive adults as well.
Besides playing with other kids, children love to play with interactive adults as well.

Furthermore, playing with your child can be a fun way to bond and spend quality time together. This can reduce stress and promote positive emotions in both parents and children, supporting overall emotional well-being.


“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning,” to quote the late and famous Mr. Rogers. We hope to have answered to “How does play affect a child’s emotional development?”

If you need more professional advice on the subject, go to UNIS Hanoi, where experienced educators and therapists can give your child the support and guidance he or she needs to develop healthy emotional regulation skills.

Counsellors at our school work with students, parents, and teachers to promote and enhance students’ development, learning, and well-being, which includes assessing students who have emotional or behavioural issues and teaching PSEL (Physical and Social Emotional Literacy) lessons to an entire class.

UNIS Hanoi proudly guarantees to best meet children’s needs through a variety of educational-psychological testing performed by our full-time school psychologist. Click here to schedule a personalised virtual or on-campus tour with us.

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