Play Personalities by Dr Maggie Redshaw

Dr Redshaw is a developmental and health psychologist who focuses on the psychological aspects of infancy and early child development. She also has a keen interest in the experience and well-being of parents with young children.

The Importance of play

Play is important to all of us (no matter how grown up we get), but it’s particularly essential for little ones as they grow and develop. Being able to play and have fun is really vital if children are to develop happily and meet their full potential. In other words, play is a key element in supporting the development of into well-rounded, able and effective grown-ups, just like Mummy and Daddy.

As you might imagine, toys and playthings are essential in this process - well-designed, safe and appropriate toys help to assist as children change and grow throughout their most formative years.

Play time involves a mix of...

  • Physical skills

    Whole body, balance and coordination, hand-eye, using feel and hands together.

  • Sensory skills

    Perception of colour, form, movement, sounds and coordination between modalities, e.g. sight and sound, sight and touch.

  • Social skills

    Interaction, turn-taking and sharing, role play and pretend, social learning.

Characteristics of toys and play

Safe, stimulating and fun
Appropriate for baby's stage of development
Versatile/adaptable
Providing choices and opportunities
Enabling and encouraging learning an development

In play there needs to be a balance between novelty and familiarity, meaning play that involves favourite toys and activities, combined with something new, exciting and different. As with everything in life, getting it right involves practice, patience and simply trying things out.

Early on the focus is on watching and listening, then reaching and touching, followed by grasping and using the mouth to explore. Connections are made between sights and sounds and babies quickly learn to predict what happens next. Simple social games can be enjoyed with Mums and Dads using hands, feet, funny noises and familiar toys.

With learning and experience the options increase and movement starts to become important as babies grow and develop into toddlers. As their physical world is growing, so is their social world and learning how things work and how the world is run is an important part of play, as are the new skills that are needed.

Play Personalities

Even though all babies are individuals right from the very start and their likes and interests can and will change over time, we have developed some play personalities to help you spot and encourage different play types:

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