28 Feb 2017
The Importance of Play in the Pre-school Year: Key Facts Every Parent Should Consider

Do you have a daughter who is 3 or 4 years-old who will be entering her pre-school year in August?

Are you wondering what she should be learning in pre-school?

Developing and learning through play form the foundations of all our early learners’ experiences.

Why is play so important?


  • Play allows children to explore new concepts and consolidate learning in areas such as early literacy and early numeracy.
  • Play allows children to relax, to ‘let off steam’ - and to develop social skills such as cooperation and effective communication.
  • Play encourages the development of imagination and motor skills. It teaches children about freedom and self-expression.
  • Whilst engaging in fulfilling and self-motivating play experiences, children are not only developing these lifelong skills, they are, most importantly, having fun!

Want to find out more? Join us at our Nursery Open Afternoon on Friday 2 June, 1.30 - 3.00 pm  

Click on this Nursery Open Afternoon booking form link to register or contact our admissions department T: 0131 311 8008 admissions@stge.org.uk. You can also browse our Nursery section.

Child-initiated play is emphasised at St George’s Nursery as this forms the foundations of all our learners’ experiences.

We strive to provide exciting and stimulating pre-school year environments, both indoors and outside, in which our children can explore, ask questions, investigate and learn under the supervision of our highly skilled early years practitioners and teachers.

We believe:

Play helps provide the building blocks for a lifetime of learning

Laying a solid foundation in pre-literacy, writing, and numeracy skills is an important aspect of a child’s cognitive development in the pre-school year. It is important to provide a diverse range of opportunities for children to explore and investigate and to develop a thirst for learning, which will stimulate and inspire a natural curiosity about the world around them.

Play can enhance the development of social and emotional skills

As children play with other children, they learn to interact positively, to socialise, to share and to take turns enabling them to build friendships and become successful negotiators in a myriad of social situations.This in turn helps boost self-esteem and confidence. Through working co-operatively, children learn to build trust in other children and adults, which effectively creates a safe, stimulating optimum environment for learning based on mutual respect.

Plan can help to develop physical health and gross motor skills

Children naturally want to run, skip, jump, kick, hop and twirl; essentially, they want the freedom and space to enjoy themselves in both indoor and outdoor environments. Pre-school play should provide opportunities for the development of gross motor skills such as climbing, crawling, dancing, throwing and catching balls or carrying objects. By developing strong, healthy bodies in pre-school, we are giving children the best start in life.

Play enables children to explore and investigate

Pre-school children are inquisitive and eager to learn. At this stage, our early years’ practitioners see many children become increasingly curious about the world around them – they are making important cognitive connections and have a desire to understand “why” and “what”. Outdoor learning opportunities can provide the perfect environment for children to learn naturally about taking risks. Through play, children learn to explore, investigate, ask questions and problem-solve. They vocalise and articulate their thoughts, becoming more confident and assured in their own knowledge and beliefs.

Play encourages the development of children’s concentration and communication skills

It is beneficial to encourage children to listen to and follow instructions. If situations are consistent and logical, it helps develop a sense of belonging and community. As children progress through the pre-school year, we can use increasingly longer sequences of instructions to develop concentration. Children learn the pleasure and importance of effective communication through listening to others and in turn having their own views and opinions valued and praised.

Play encourages independence

During the pre-school children should feel safe and happy to be away from their parents and guardians for an extended period of time during the day. This includes arriving at nursery in the morning and regularly entering the playroom without any fuss. Children are encouraged to be confident and resilient in new situations.

Play allows children to learn from their mistakes and build resilience

As children use play to make sense of the world and develop their cognitive and behavioural understanding of concepts, it is natural to observe them make errors in acceptable actions and behaviour. Mistakes are a perfectly natural process in all human development – we make our most effective leaps in learning if we can recognise mistakes and adapt our reactions. Our early years practitioners believe it is important that children learn from such situations through gentle guidance and reassurance. Nurturing a positive self-view allows children to develop their strengths, acquire new skills and build resilience.

Play develops fine motor skills

In the pre-school year, there are many activities in which children can engage to develop their fine motor skills. These include:

  • creative art activities which help children to develop the muscle control needed to develop important practical skills such as the safe use of scissors, cutting, painting and glueing;
  • mark-making (the precursor to writing) in any area of the nursery with scribbles and patterns to tell stories and express feelings and ideas;
  • any activity which involves the use of finger and wrist control such as threading or weaving.

These activities aid the development of concentration skills as children learn to focus on activities for increasingly extended times. They are encouraged to develop good ‘writing’ habits by the early years practitioners through gentle guidance on the correct pencil grip.

Help with self-care and executive functioning skills

Children are encouraged to become increasingly independent in pre-school: they are encouraged to put on and take off their coats, become more adept at using buttons and zips and change their shoes independently. Children are expected to be able to go to the toilet on their own, blow their nose and to wash their hands. During snack and lunch times, children are expected to be able to use a knife and fork correctly and have good table manners. They should be able to listen to and follow a series of straightforward instructions readily.

Developing good routines at home

By developing routines at home, this can help pre-school children become increasingly prepared for the structure of Primary 1. This includes helping with simple chores such as tidying toys away or helping to clear the table after meal times. The development of good bed and bath time routines will also help children feel fresh and ready for the adventures and learning that each new day brings.