5 Ways Play can make your Learner a Better Reader

The Easter holidays are my favourite. Controversial statement, I know. But it’s two glorious weeks without any rigid plans, chocolate in abundance AND spring starts to rear its beautiful head.

As we’ve had over 12 months of following rules and limited opportunities for ‘fun’, I thought I’d try and inspire you all to use these 14 days to well and truly rediscover your inner child. Very little effort involved, and you may even find yourself feeling more relaxed and spending less time sweatin’ the small stuff.


Cast your mind back…

Can you remember the last time you ‘played’? I’m not talking about those times you said yes to a game of hide and seek, and spent the entire time watching the clock. Or (if you’re me) forget you’re supposed to be ‘seeking’ and get side-tracked by something else, leaving the child thinking they’re the best ‘hider’ in the universe. Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

What is play?

The definition of play is to ‘engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.’

The priority of enjoyment over practicality is exactly how our children should feel about reading too.

We don’t read books because they improve our memory, prevent cognitive decline and reduce stress (although these are excellent added bonuses), we do it because we crave that feeling of calm, intrigue and relaxation.

What’s so great about play?

Play is an essential part of development. It develops cognitive, physical and social well-being of children. But these benefits are not only limited to children. These can be felt by adults too.

Play allows us to explore a totally different side of ourselves and live in the present moment (not the virtual ones hiding in our pockets).

I’ve definitely been guilty of passing up the opportunity to play ‘the floor is lava’ with my nieces and nephews because I felt I had more important things to do. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you’ve ever been lucky enough to meet a ‘celebrity’ or public figure that you admire, you’ll know that feeling of ‘wow, they took the time to talk to me or have a photo taken’. This is the exact feeling your child has when you say ‘yeah, I’ll play’. They feel noticed, special and more importantly appreciated.

How can play benefit me and my child?

The act of play can feel completely alien to us adults (because it’s been so long since we were kids). But the benefits of fully engaging in it will be felt by you and your child:

  • You can get in touch with forgotten hobbies and interests – you could be on a family walk and discover that you used to love climbing trees as a child, what’s stopping you taking it up as an adult?
  • Mindfulness – it’s a huge buzz word at the moment but if you’re absorbed then your mind cannot and will not be distracted by the mundane and stressful demands of every-day life.
  • Quality family time – saying ‘yes’ more to your children’s requests to join in and play will greatly improve your relationship. Plus, they get to see you in a different and fun roll other than ‘parent’.
  • Develop an appreciation for the world around you – by unplugging and throwing yourself into play, you will stop and notice the beauty and wonder of the world around you.
  • Increases creativity – this is great for you and your child. If there’s some home décor that you’ve been needing inspiration for, a work project that’s really got you stumped or even a book that you’ve always wanted to write, losing yourself in play could unlock your creative streak.
How can play make my child a better reader?

From building with blocks to painting pictures, many of your child’s behaviours involve an element of play. Here’s how you can tailor them to develop their language and literacy development and learning to read:

  1. Use a variety of props and objects – pretend a block is a phone, a box is a spaceship or (my personal favourite) the floor is a shark infested ocean.
  2. Recreate a pretend scenario – this is a great one if your child lacks confidence in speaking to strangers. You could do a shopkeeper and customer or even get your child to play waiter during dinner time.
  3. Dress up – this will help your child feel the part and also allows them to ‘get into character’ so they won’t feel so self-conscious.
  4. Use a book or picture to inspire ideas – you could get your child to choose the material and ask them to act out or recreate what that person or character is doing.
  5. Recreate family memories – if you have multiple children this is an excellent opportunity for them to put on a performance as a group. We’ve all got memories of ‘that family holiday’ or the ‘time when ______ did…’ use these as inspiration and get your child(ren) to recreate it. It’s also a good chance to see the world through your child’s eyes.
“Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.” – Kay Redfield Jamison

For more reading activities, check out these free resources.

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