Two toddlers playing with toys in the playroom

5 Types of Play That Help Toddlers Grow and Learn

"In the play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself." 

Lev Vygotsky was a famous soviet psychologist specializing in childhood development. We wanted to start this article with his quote to underline the significance of different types of play for children.

When it comes to toddlers, playtime is an incredibly important part of their development. It's not just fun and games – play helps toddlers learn valuable skills, build relationships, and grow emotionally. 

Playtime helps toddlers build relationships, explore the world around them and develop cognitive, physical, and social skills

As a parent or caregiver, it's essential to recognize the different types of play and understand how they benefit your little one. So let's get into it.

What are 5 Types of Play That Help Toddlers Grow and Learn?

Object Play

Let's start with the type of play where children interact with toys and objects to explore their physical properties and use them to create their own stories. 

Yes, this is object play. 

This type of play is essential for toddlers as it helps them understand the world around them and how objects can be manipulated. It also allows them to use their imaginations to create different types of play scenarios.

Examples of object play include:

  • Stacking blocks
  • Playing with cars and dolls 
  • Building sandcastles
  • Playing with a ball. 

Object play helps toddlers develop problem-solving skills, spatial awareness, and fine motor control. Additionally, this type of play can help them practice language skills such as giving orders or talking about what they are doing. 

As they play with different objects, they will begin to form a better understanding of physical properties and how to manipulate things.

Symbolic or Make-believe play

One of the most common types of play for toddlers is symbolic or make-believe play. 

Make-believe play is a great method to explore the world safely and imaginatively. It allows toddlers to express their creativity and use objects to represent other things, such as pretending a stick is a sword or a block is a phone. A fun thing to observe is how they act out various situations they may have experienced or heard about.

Here are some of the benefits of symbolic play for toddlers:

  • It teaches them how to communicate effectively by allowing them to talk through situations they are exploring.
  • It also provides an outlet for expressing emotions in a safe and socially acceptable manner. 
  • It helps them develop problem-solving skills, as they figure out how to make sense of the imaginary world they are creating. 

If you want to help your toddler engage more in symbolic play, you can provide props, costumes, and age-appropriate toys. You can suggest different scenarios, come up with an adventure, and find the best pretend-play ideas for your toddler

Sometimes what your baby needs is a little guidance and encouragement. So hop in on that pretend play for once in a while. 

Physical play

Of course, we wouldn't leave physical play out of this list. It's an essential part of learning for toddlers. Physical play helps them develop the skills to interact with their environment and use their bodies. 

Physical play includes running, jumping, climbing, crawling, throwing, and kicking. These activities can help toddlers strengthen their muscles, improve coordination and balance, and build confidence. 

Toddlers are already energetic and will find a way to move around on their own, but you can help them with their physical health and play by including them in age-appropriate sports classes. These can be helpful with their social and emotional development since they'll have to interact with other children in their teams. 

It is important to remember that physical play should be safe and age-appropriate. Make sure to provide your toddler with toys that are not too small or sharp, that can be handled without breaking, and that is not too heavy or difficult for your child. Also, make sure that any area where your child plays is free of sharp edges, furniture, or other objects that may pose a risk for injury. 

And don't forget to stay nearby to make sure your toddler is safe and secure. 

Social Play

A secure and healthy adult knows how to interact with other people in social settings. It's because they got to do a lot of social play when they were children. 

Social play helps children learn how to interact with their peers and adults. It also helps them understand their emotions and how to express them. 

Social play can take many forms, including:

  • Pretend or make-believe play 
  • Singing songs
  • Playing games like tag, etc.

Children who actively engage in the social play learn a lot about friendship and how to be part of a group. It’s essential for toddlers to feel included and accepted by their peers. Through social play, they can learn to develop relationships, share ideas, and work together to reach a common goal (even if it's finding another toddler who's hiding behind a bush). 

The benefits of social play can last well beyond the toddler years. Children who have learned social skills through play easily make friends in school and beyond. Social play also helps to strengthen problem-solving skills and encourages creativity. 

For parents, social play provides a wonderful opportunity of teaching empathy, kindness, respect, and cooperation. Spending quality time playing together with your toddler is a great way to foster these values. So don’t be afraid to join in and get involved!

Solitary Play

Finally, we want to mention solitary play. It's when children play alone, independently, and without requiring assistance or involvement from anyone else. 

Kids need to develop the skills of independence and self-reliance through solitary play. This type of play helps them learn to become comfortable in their own skin and develop the ability to entertain themselves. It also encourages the development of problem-solving skills, imagination, and creativity.

Just leave your child with crayons and water-based paint for a few minutes; you'll come back to a masterpiece on the wall or, hopefully, on paper. 

Solitary play can look like this:

Solitary play allows toddlers to explore their creativity and sense of self. Just don't forget to create a safe and comfortable environment for your child without distractions.  


As a parent, it's important to ensure your child is doing well at school, meeting all the milestones, knows how to multiply 3 by 4, and can sing the alphabet without pausing, right? 

But it's equally essential for them to get enough playtime. 

As much as we want literate children, we shouldn't forget the importance of creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to learn from failure—all skills best learned through play.