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It's all fun and games...or is it?

Ever sat in on your child's therapy session and thought to yourself "Aren't they just playing games?"

You may have already heard of "Play-based learning" and the benefits of it through your child's early education setting, schools or other social media platforms. Play-based learning is defined by the Queensland Government Department of Education as a method of learning that “provides opportunities for children to actively and imaginatively engage with people, objects and the environment”.

But what does that actually mean?

Well in short, a happy, engaged child is much more likely to take on board the messages that we are delivering. A child's natural occupation is to play, so why not incorporate learning and therapy goals into something they will enjoy.

Take a peak inside a therapists bag to see what games we use and their hidden benefits, you probably have some of these lying around at home:

Play dough, putty or modelling clay:

  • Development of fine motor skills including: fine motor manipulation, dexterity and strength

  • Bilateral integration: using two hands to achieve a joint goal e.g. rolling out a snake.

  • Creativity: choosing different outfits or even placing body parts in different areas.

  • Literacy and numeracy: describing the features, labelling the shapes you are making or counting your creations.

  • Body awareness: make people, animals or creatures and add body parts to them.

Mr Potato head:

  • Fine motor skills, specifically manipulation and the development of a pincer grasp.

  • Body awareness: identifying the names of body parts, and finding their correct location is a lot easier when you can see, touch and feel them in your own hands!

  • Emotions: by creating different faces on Mr Potato head, children can identify and explore key body clues for feelings and emotions.

Where's Wally:

  • Visual Perception: the brain's ability to make sense of what the eyes see.

  • Visual Tracking: a visual processing skill that occurs when the eyes focus on an object as it moves across the field of vision.


  • Fine Motor skills: strength developed through the resistance of the tweezers, dexterity and control of the fingers is also targeted.

  • Hand-eye coordination: moving the tweezers into just the right spot so that you don't get zapped!

  • Body awareness: again, increasing exposure to locating and naming body parts.

Pop-up Pirate:

  • Fine motor skills: a refined pincer grasp is targeted through picking up and placing your sword in the barrel.

  • Colours: identifying different coloured swords.

  • Turn taking: moving around the players to each take a turn without knowing when the pirate will pop up!

Marble run:

  • Cause and effect: cause and effect help children learn that something else will happen for every action.

  • Problem solving: when one path doesn't create the outcome the child was looking for, encourage them to problem solve and alter their creation.

  • Hand-eye coordination: placing that tiny marble in just the right spot to get it to go down, as well as placing the inter-connecting parts together.

Well their you have it, your behind the scenes look into what we like playing with and why! Next time your playing a family game of Operation or reading a bed-time Where's Wally, think of all the hidden skills you are promoting!


Queensland Government. (April, 2019). Department of Education. Early Childhood education and care - Play based learning. Retrieved from: Play-based learning (


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