The Importance of Play

Here’s why play is an essential way to support your baby’s development, plus some ideas on how to maximize the opportunities here in Hawai‘i.



Play is not just a fun and enjoyable activity for your little one; it is also crucial for their overall development. From the moment they are born, babies are wired to explore and learn to make sense of the world around them. Play provides them with the perfect platform to do so by promoting cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.


In Hawai‘i, play can happen in so many places that can play a greater role in the overall development of babies.


family hike in Hawaii

Photo: Derek Owens


How Play Helps Cognitive Development


Play helps babies develop their learning and thinking skills. Through play, they learn by engaging with their senses, making observations, and experiencing changes. Play supports creativity, imagination, and language skills. Whether it’s finding seashells on the beach, looking at vibrant flowers in your neighborhood, or feeling sand between their tiny fingers, play can stimulate learning anywhere on the island.


  • Point out flowers, trees, animals, houses, etc. while you’re on a walk
  • Allow your baby to splash around in safe beach areas like Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park
  • Play peek-a-boo with a pareo


SEE ALSO:  Kuli‘ou‘ou Beach Park: A Keiki-Friendly Beach on O‘ahu


How Play Helps Physical Development


Play encourages your baby to move, crawl, roll and walk. It helps your baby meet motor milestones and learn how to coordinate their body. Hawai‘i offers a wealth of outdoor spaces for play, like the beach, parks and hiking trails.


  • Allow your baby to crawl over different textures and obstacles, like grassy parks or sandy beaches
  • Let your baby to hold onto their bottle
  • Once your baby becomes comfortable with walking, let them explore walking in the sand



baby at the beach

Photo: Yianni Mathioudakis


How Play Supports Social Development


Playtime provides opportunities for babies to interact with people, whether it is aunty, tutu, siblings or friends. Social interactions foster emotional connections, language development and the understanding of social cues. Engaging play deepens a sense of ‘ohana and contributes to building family bonds and a sense of belonging.


  • Build sandcastles as a family
  • Share toys as back-and-forth play
  • Imitate the gestures that your baby makes during play


SEE ALSO:  The Importance of Playground Play


How Play Helps Communication Development


Engaging in play offers opportunities for your baby to listen, observe and imitate sounds and gestures. Through play interactions, babies learn the foundations of language and communication.


  • Talk about what you are making for dinner
  • If you live in a multilingual home, expose your baby to those languages
  • Make sound effects when chatting with your little one



Overall, play is an essential way to support your baby’s development. Whether it’s exploring nature, engaging in physical activity or spending time with family, there are so many fun and easy ways for your baby to learn and grow. Making time for opportunities to play can unlock potential for learning, development and creating memories as a family.