Functional/Manipulative Play

Children learn about objects and their use through functional play.  They use toys or objects in the way in which they are intended.  They will roll a ball and stack blocks.

This type of play can also be described as manipulative play.  A child uses their hands to manipulate toys and objects to learn about how to use them.  This includes construction play, arts and crafts and tool-use (e.g. scissors) and helps to develop eye-hand co-ordination.

Early Manipulative Play

Manipulative Play in the early stages is about learning to use your hands.  Fine motor skills develop through a number of different stages from sensory awareness to in-hand manipulation and tool-use.  These skills are essential for the development of other activities of daily living.  Below are some play activities to help your child develop these essential skills.

Reach Grasp Release

Reach, grasp and release are fundamental fine motor skills.  It is important to develop these skills early as they are building blocks to complex fine motor skills and participation in activities of daily living which develop later.

Reach & Grasp

The development of reach and grasp is influenced by a child’s growing interest in objects and desire to attain them.


Children love to place objects into containers and empty them out!  This helps them to develop their release skills and refine their eye-hand coordination skills.


Construction play involves manipulating one or more pieces of play materials to create something new. This may involve a variety of methods – stacking, sticking, putting together, taking things apart, sorting or moulding, to name a few.

 play develops all types of skills and behaviours;

*The motor skills necessary to create and manipulate the items.

*Imagination skills.

*Planning & ideation skills; the ability to try out and test ideas.

“Perseverance when things don’t work.

*When playing with others turn taking and collaboration skills.

Playing with Technology

There are benefits to using technology both for play and learning.  Using technology can help with creativity, problem solving, visual thinking and can make learning fun.  Using the right kind of technology/games/activities can support the development of your child’s learning and skills, including fine motor skills, letter/number/shape/colour recognition, eye-hand co-ordination, reading, writing, planning, problem solving etc.

Arts and Crafts

Taking part in art and craft activities can help your child in many ways.  Arts and crafts activities can help to develop your child’s imagination and creativity, their planning and organisation skills and fine motor skills.

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