A four year old girl (who happens to be my daughter, but this could be almost any child in that age group) is gathering sticks and leaves in the park. She uses them to make a tiny tent on the base of a large oak tree. I don’t interfere with her play, although I’m just near enough to make out some of the things she’s saying to her imaginary pets. Apparently, there is a storm coming and they have to protect themselves while she’s away. Later on, she will explain the whole situation to her friend, who’ll join her important project, and together they’ll ensure the safety of their extraordinary collection of pets – ranging from squirrels to unicorns. This is play in its purest form and, as most parents and early years educators would say, it seems to be extremely beneficial for the overall development and learning of children.