More than just fun and games

Junior School Tuesday, 31 May 2022

When you reflect on your time in school, it is quite likely you will remember your friends and the games you played more than you would remember a particular lesson. And as a parent, you know that children seldom need a reason to go and play, and most play happens quite naturally.  But play is more than just self-entertainment – it has an important role in learning, physical development, confidence and wellbeing.  

Unstructured play – creative play, imagination games, make-believe, exploring – cultivates social skills, cooperation, empathy and helps children develop problem solving skills. Open ended play with ‘loose parts’ (lots of small items that can be played with and used in different ways) helps spur creativity. 

Structured play is more organised, and includes activities such as sport, storytelling groups, dance class and board games. These also offer developmental benefits for children, and benefits increase with higher levels of participation.

Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to negotiate, to share, to resolve conflicts and to learn self-advocacy skills. Unstructured, active play with others – including parents, siblings and peers – is a significant opportunity to cultivate social skills. 

Drawing, scribbling and painting is more than just an artistic outlet in play – it encourages the development of writing skills and fine motor skills. 

Active play, such as climbing, running, digging, jumping, ball games and dancing, promotes development gross motor skills, strength, endurance, and strengthens connections in the brain. It is also a great form of exercise, which promotes physical health. 

Play also encourages the development of cognitive skills, such as thinking, remembering, paying attention, problem solving, and can help develop an understanding of concepts such as shapes, colours and measurement.  

In addition to the social and emotional learning, playing with others also leads to an increased understanding of words and their use, as well as listening and speaking skills. 

At Helena College, play opportunities are facilitated for all year levels, Kindergarten to Year 5, both on the timetable and through learning practices. 

With extensive outdoor play areas, including dedicated play spaces for individual year groups, students have opportunities for active, unstructured play and more formal games. 

From mud kitchens to nature play, friendship rocks to cubbie houses, sandpits to adventure play equipment, students can explore, climb, build, invent, imagine and discover. 

If you’d like more information on enrolment opportunities in Junior School at Helena College, please email