The Development of Play


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Why is play so important in child development? Are children in today’s society suffering from a lack of time for free play, with the emerging dominance of screen play? Can play therapy help to uncover, rescue and rehabilitate children living in abusive environments, or even in war-torn countries? Is play also important for adult development?

Play is a learning experience and a crucial component to childhood development as it allows children to emulate the behaviours of those around them and to develop their social skills. In this engaging book, David Cohen examines how children play with objects, language, each other, and their parents to reveal how play enables children to learn how to move, think independently, speak and imagine. Cohen suggests that much of our formative experiences of play informs our future selves, and explores how play can help us to become better parents.

This new edition of The Development of Play offers a fascinating review of the importance of play in all our lives. It includes the latest research on the impact of digital technology, brain development, cultural differences in play and toys, and also looks at why parents sometimes choose different toys for girls and boys. The book also provides advice and guidance on how parents can play creatively and imaginatively with their children. It is essential reading for Early Years, health care and education professionals as well as undergraduate students in developmental psychology and education.


  • 1 Introduction
  • 2 A history of “silly play”
  • 3 Playing with objects
  • 4 Playing with other children
  • 5 Pretending
  • 6 Playful people?
  • 7 Play therapy and child abuse
  • 8 Adult games in a changing world
  • 9 Endgames
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Author Bio:

David Cohen is a psychologist, film-maker and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.


“Scholarly, erudite yet entertaining, Cohen’s book takes us to the heart of the very serious subject of play. Play and indeed playfulness is undervalued these days, possibly in danger of becoming a lost art, and this new edition, full of classic and new research and ideas, helps us see what a vitally important role play has in children’s development and in life in general. This book will be a boon to all who work with children, and the interested layperson” – Dr Graham Music, Consultant Psychotherapist, Tavistock Clinic London, UK