Published on 9th January, 2023
There are many forms of play that are important for children’s development. Every child passes different stages of play where they prefer to indulge in specific types of play. As such, it is important for parents or caregivers to understand their child’s developmental needs to better support their child’s growth.
The following are the different types of play:
Unoccupied play: where a child makes random body movements with no clear purpose. They are learning about and discovering how their body moves.
Solitary play: This is when children play by themselves and are not quite keen on playing with others. This is because namely due to the toddlers’ limited social, cognitive, and physical skills. At this stage, the child explores their world by watching, grabbing and rattling objects. Such type of play begins in infancy and is common in toddlers.
Spectator/Onlooker play: This is where a child watches other children play but does not join the play. This type of play usually begins during toddler years though it also occurs at any age. Here, children are observing their social surroundings and learning how to relate to others.
Parallel play: Parallel play is where a child plays near other children without any interest in having direct interaction. Although it may appear that the child is immersed in their own activity, they still observe what the nearby child is doing too.
Associative play: Also commonly known as ‘ “loosely organized play’. This is where a child plays side-by-side with others, engaging at times but not coordinating efforts. For instance, there might be a child playing with a toy and another child joining them and copying what they’re doing. They may play together, but they don’t make a formal plan together or set any rules. Associative play teaches the art of sharing and encourages language development, and problem-solving skills.
Social play: At around the age of three or four, children are beginning to socialize with other children. Such a form of play becomes more complex and involves more and more interactions with others. The child learns to corporate and compromise and share ideas. This is also where the child starts learning to use moral reasoning to develop a sense of values.
Motor-Physical Play: This is where children engage in physical movements such as running or playing games such as hide and seek. This form of playing can enhance social skills (e.g. taking terms or sportsmanship) in children while enjoying good exercise. It is also beneficial in the development of gross and motor skills.
Constructive Play: This is where children physically manipulate materials in the environment to create things. By experimenting with learning materials, the child develops their conceptual knowledge by posing questions and gathering data. Constructive play allows children to make sense of their world. It also allows children to feel confident and a sense of accomplishment when accomplishing a task during constructive play.
Expressive Play: Because children are often unable to verbally communicate and share their feelings the same way adults do, expressive play is an excellent form of play that helps children learn to express feelings and recognise emotions. Such forms of play are typically dance, music, art and writing. It also helps to enhance children’s creativity and provides them with a chance to engage with their sensory senses.
Fantasy Play: Fantasy play is also commonly known as ‘Pretend play’. This is when children make use of their imagination to role-play different roles and explore different types of social situations. Here, children learn to think and create beyond their world. This provides them with an opportunity to understand themselves (e.g. their likes and dislikes) and the world.
Cooperative play: Cooperative play typically begins around four to five years old. It involves children playing and working towards a common goal. This is when children begin to play games with rules and understand the importance of social contracts and rules. Some common examples of cooperative play include: Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and team sports. Such type of play allows children to build communication skills and empathy. For instance, when kids negotiate rules and roles, they learn to think from the perspective of others to ensure that the game is “fair” for all. This will help them learn to collaborate and cooperate at school and in other typical social settings.
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