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Playing with our children

Posted on August 3, 2019 by Ann

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Lee Peng’s story

Lee Peng is an active 9 year old boy in a special school. Lee Peng is taken care by his grandparents, as both his parents work and hardly have time for him. He has many toys but seldom plays with them or often damages them, causing his father to punish him. He is seldom brought out to the playground as he often runs away and ignores his parent’s instructions. At school, Lee Peng prefers to play alone. Whenever he engages in group activities, he either pushes other children or snatches toys from his peers. He is observed to be clumsy in most manipulative activities.

What is play?

There are many ways of defining play. The Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI) provides a more specific definition of play as, “…a dynamic, active, and constructive behaviour – an essential and integral part of all children’s healthy growth, development, and learning across all ages, domains, and cultures” (Isenberg & Quisenberry, 2002, p. 1).

Play is the most important part of every child’s life and it is crucial for their development. Through play, children learn the habits most needed for intellectual growth. Play allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.It is one of the most useful ways of preparing a child for the future.

Why is play important for children?

Motor skills are observed to develop earlier in children who are engaged in either adult directed or free play.

Researchers have found that:

  • preschoolers who spend more time on sociodramatic play are advanced in intellectual development,
  • those who pretend play more are imaginative and creative, and
  • physical play with parents at home helps improve the child’s self-control and capability to compete with his peers.

How do you engage your child in play?

The most important factor in improving the play behaviour of a child is for parents to spend time with the child.

Spending time can help the parents to improve bonding and attachment, as well as understand their child’s abilities and limitations.

Engaging a child in meaningful play activities may help to deter him from learning socially unacceptable behaviours.

Parents of children with intellectual disability may have to modify play activities as their children tend to engage in play differently.

Tips on spending time meaningfully with your child

• Ensure a safe environment for activities.

• Plan play activities which are age appropriate with suitable challenges. Do not conduct activities which are beyond your child’s abilities as this might demotivate him or her.

• Engage your child in physical play. Some examples include running and jumping.

• Be consistent in following the rules and be a good role model for your child.

• Give them opportunities to choose what they want to play. This will motivate them to participate in play activities.

Examples of games that are useful for young children or a child with intellectual disability

• “Freeze” is a game which improves movement skills and concentration. Play lively music and ask the participants to dance or move however they wish. They are to stop moving when the music ends. Those who move will be forfeited from continuing the game. The last person remaining after several rounds is deemed the winner.

• “Can you do what I do?” helps to improve imitation and motor planning skills. In this game, your child has to follow every action you do, such as clapping your hands or touching your nose.

Lee Peng’s story (cont)

Lee Peng’s parents were taught the importance of play and were advised on strategies to engage him in meaningful play. Lee Peng’s parents are now finding it less challenging to bring him to the park and playground. His play behaviour in school is also improving. 


MINDS is an All In Preferred Partner.

Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) is one of the largest Voluntary Welfare Organisations in Singapore, serving some 2,400 clients from past the age of six to their ripe old age. MINDS’ services include four special schools, three employment development centres, three day training and development centres, and one multi-service residential home.

This guide was originally published by MINDS’ Allied Health Professionals unit and republished with minor editorial amendments by All In.

All content found on the All In website, has been created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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