Easy ideas for play – and why it's good for us

Green funny kids’ drawings of fantasy creatures on a yellow background.

Easy ideas for play – and why it's good for us

What are the types of play? What are the benefits of play in child development? And why is children’s right to play important? These are some of the questions our three IKEA Play Reports – the most recent of which we created in 2017 – set out to answer.

An outdoor evening scene in the countryside with several teenagers playing a baseball-like game.

Learning through play

Our three IKEA Play Reports make up the world’s largest ever body of research on play. The learnings from all this data and exploration directly influence the way we design for the wonderful, ever-changing world of home – which of course includes our Children's IKEA range.

A bedroom with a dad lying on his back with hands and feet up in the air on the bed, playing airplane with his son.

The benefits of play

Our research reveals that through play, we connect, create, recharge, escape and explore. It’s these five “play benefits” that make play a basic human need – not a luxury. They're also why the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child underlines play as the universal right of every child.


Drumroll… Introducing… The IKEA Mini Play Guide!

For Let’s play!, we’ve condensed the findings from the IKEA Play Report 17 into a bite-sized, printable IKEA Mini Play Guide, not only to share what we’ve learned about play, but to include ideas for how to play in life’s most important playground: home.

“As children we develop our relational world through play. As we grow up, we begin to develop power and creativity as more adult expressions. But that doesn’t mean we stop playing!”

Roy Landsmaid, Psychologist
A boy and a girl with a kitten mask on her forehead, sitting comfortably on a sofa while talking.

How to play

“Everyone has known play, but as we grow up it can come less easily to us,” says the Mini Play Guide, which offers “a scattering of seeds with which to grow new play ideas and opportunities.”

Below are some of the ways to play that the guide covers – plus an idea for each.

A boy gets his face painted for play by two friends.

Free-style play

About: Spontaneity and lack of structure, where we become immersed in the world children naturally create as they play.
Example: Kitchen band – grab pots and pans, and set them up to be “played” with kitchen utensils. Remember, loud is good!

A happy girl playing peekaboo and holding a red LJUSA hand-powered flashlight.

Build-it play

About: Creating something new with your child by exploring, experimenting and problem solving – then celebrating it together.
Example: Compile a model-making kit (glue, scissors etc.), and collect clean household junk to pull out for projects.

A kitchen where a Mom is washing the dishes while her little daughter is fixing a garland.

Mirror-me play

About: Inspiring imaginative play, these are light-hearted ways for adults and kids to complete chores by turning them into a game.
Example: Baking simple recipes where the child can lead. Use measuring cups instead of weighing scales to avoid disruptive pauses.

An outdoor evening scene in an Eastern country where girls are running around playing in the schoolyard.

Muddy-boots play

About: Physical play is for letting go, running around and shaking off social constraints. Energy is boosted, endorphins are released, and happiness is delivered.
Example: Arrange a simple sporting event, with sprints like the Three-Legged Race, Sack Race or Egg-and-Spoon Race.

A boy coloring black-and-white drawings on a LUSTIGT coloring paper roll with MÅLA colored pencils.

Out-of-the-box play

About: Creative play in which, as imaginations are tapped into, a wonderful world beyond rules and obligations opens up.
Example: Freely scribble swirls and curls, never letting your pencil leave the paper. Then, color the shapes between the lines.

A boy and a girl sitting on a green carpet while playing a game.

Formal play

About: A little less spontaneity and a little more structure, with all players finding respite from everyday life as they solve specific challenges.
Example: Stacking games like LATTJO, the ultimate test of steady hands – and steely nerves!

Three rows of a multicolored party garland with the words “Let’s play!” written in some places.