We all know kids of all ages love to play, either by themselves or with other children. What we may not know, though, is about the importance of play in early childhood. Play in early childhood is extremely important for children to fully develop. Play helps children learn rules and what to expect in different situations. As children grow older, play teaches them how to act properly in society. Let’s break down the different types of play that children will go through as they get older.
Unoccupied play starts at a young age, when children are just infants. Kids will move around alot with no clear purpose. This is the beginning stages of play in early childhood.
Solitary play begins when children are about 3 months old and goes until they are toddlers. During this time, children are very busy playing on their own and most likely won’t notice other children around them. They are busy rattling and grabbing different objects.
Onlooker play happens during the toddler years. During this time, children are learning how to relate to other children and learning language. Because of this, they will spend a lot of time watching other children play and will not make any effort to join in on the play.
Parallel play happens from 18 months old to about 2 years old. Children will begin to play next to each other, but will not interact with each other. During parallel play, children learn the idea of property rights and start to say “mine” a lot.
Associative play starts at the age of three or four, and they become much more interested in other children than their own toys. This play helps them learn the do’s and don’ts of getting along with others. It also teaches them how to share and develop problem solving skills.
Social play can start around three years old. In this type of play, children begin to interact with other children in play settings. They start to share toys and ideas and also begin to use moral reasoning in their play.
Physical play is when children run, jump and play games like tag and hide and seek. Physical play is important for exercise and muscle strength. This is where kids learn to take turns and accept winning or losing.
Constructive play begins as an infant and continuously grows as the child gets older. Constructive play is all about creating things, like drawing and playing with building blocks. This type of play allows children to explore objects and discover patterns. Children often gain pride once they’ve accomplished a tough task during this constructive play.
Expressive play helps children learn how to express their feelings. To allow this, children play with paints, crayons, markers, colored pencils, clay, water and sponges. Parents and teachers can do a project next to their child to encourage expressive play.
Fantasy play allows children to create and think in different ways. Many children like to assume adult roles to stretch their imagination and use new words.
Cooperative play begins in the late preschool age and is typically organized into group play. Usually, there is one leader of the group and they begin to play games with rules. Some of those games are Simon Says, Follow the Leader and team sports. These games teach children that life as many rules that everyone must follow.
There are so many benefits from these different types of play that all children go through. They gain knowledge, they learn to think and solve problems, they strengthen their language and communication skills, they gain an understanding of size, texture, and shape, they learn to develop their imaginations and it helps children learn how to be a part of a group. These benefits just scratch the surface of the importance of play in early childhood. The more we play with our children the better!
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