As most child care professionals know, play is much more than a way to keep children busy between "important" activities. Hands-on exploration through play is the primary way that young children learn about their world and build their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social skills. Some of the best ways that child care providers can support young children's development are by scheduling adequate opportunities for children to play, planning interesting activities that engage children's imagination, providing engaging and varied materials, and supporting children's play without interrupting or taking over the activity.
The following articles from the eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care can help you understand more about what play-based learning looks like, and the most effective ways to support young children's play.
If you are interested in finding specific activities to support children's play and creative expression in your child care program, visit our database of Hands-on Activities for Child Care.