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The 5 Developmental Domains of Play

There are five developmental domains

When children engage in pretend play they are constantly developing in these domains.


Fine and Gross Motor Skills

  • Pretend play gives the children the opportunity to build upon their fine and gross motor skills by helping them gain control over their bodies
  • As children run, climb and jump in their fantasy games they build upon their speed, endurance, balance and strength
  • Fine motor skills are developed through exploration and experimentation
  • "Over time, through pretend play, the children's skills are refined and expanded with increasing dexterity and precision" (MYOLE.J, Just Playing?)
  • As children encounter new challenges, through imaginary play, they build upon their motor skills, mastering new and more complex abilities

Social and Emotional

  • Pretend play with peers help children build upon their social understandings and relationships
  • As they make these encounters they discover which social approaches work and which don't
  • They learn how to maintain relationships
  • "Imaginary play allows children to practice and extend what they already know, by sharing, talking, taking turns, exercising self control, working in groups and just plain getting along with others." (DAU.E, Child's' Play)
  • Helps children to build self-esteem as they gain a sense of their own powers and abilities

Language Development

  • Imaginative play frequently involves the use of voice, therefore language is also used
  • Children use play to control their own language development, which is guided by those around them and their desire to play with their peers
  • Through imaginary play, "children learn to clarify new words and concepts, motivating language, to practice their vocabulary, developing meta linguistic awareness and encouraging verbal thinking." (MOYLE.J, Just Playing?)

Cognitive Development

  • Imaginative play helps children find an understanding of shape, size, space and numbers. This is essential for mathematical development
  • Imaginative play helps children acquire academic learning that will help them throughout life. "As children persist with problems in their play, they become creative thinkers, problem solvers and risk takers." (DAU.E., Child's' Play)
  • Through play children find endless ways to develop their symbolic capabilities by using materials in interesting and useful ways that is meaningful to them, e.g. a climbing frame becomes the pirate ship