Published on 26th June, 2023 by Abelle Wee
Play is the work of children. Through play, children understand more about the world and master new learned skills. It is also through play that we get to peek into a child’s world.
There are many definitions of play, one such is
“Play is the expression of intentional states—there presentations in consciousness constructed from what children know about and are learning from ongoing events—and consists of spontaneous, naturally occurring activities with objects that engage attention and interest. Play may or may not involve caregivers or peers, may or may not involve a display of affect, and may or may not involve pretence” (Lifter and Bloom, 1998).
However, the consensus across multi-disciplines and key Play Theorists is the importance of play in holistic child development.
The characteristics of play are:
(Learning and Developing Through Play, 2009, p. 53)
Play can be categorised into two dimensions: Social and Cognitive aspect.
|Unoccupied play||0 to 3 months||When children usually make random and involuntary movements in preparation for the subsequent levels of play.|
|Solitary Play||3 months to 2.5 years||At this stage, children spend much of their time playing on their own and may not notice others around them. They engage in exploration of the world by interacting with objects around them such as touching, banging, or mouthing. Their movements begin to become more targeted and intentional.|
|Onlooker play||2.5 to 3.5 years||During the toddler years, a child will begin to watch other children play but may not enter that play situation. They will begin to learn how to relate to others and develop their social skills.|
|Parallel play||3.5 to 4 years||A child in this stage will play independently beside other children but with little to no social engagement.|
|Associative play||4 to 4.5 years||A higher interest in other children start to develop at this stage and children may begin to socialise with one another. The type of play is usually unstructured and disorganized. However, through Associative play, children learn the rules of social engagement such as sharing, turn-taking, negotiation which further encourages language development.|
|Cooperative play||4.5 years and above||As a child’s play with others become more organized, a common goal is developed where social contracts come into the picture. Children learn to engage in play within boundaries, problem-solve, and regulate their emotions. This leads to participation in more structured games with rules and eventually team sports.|
|Type of Play||Description|
|Construction Play||Building or constructing something new using multiple objects and materials that are natural (e.g., sand) or manufactured (e.g., LEGO blocks), and involves the manipulation of more than one element of the play environment.|
|Digital/technology play||Engaging in video games on computer, electronic toys or tablets, and the creation of digital content.|
|Exploratory Play||One of the earliest types of play that infants engage in, it involves the use of sensorimotor skills to learn about their environment, explore novel materials and their properties, and deciding what can be done with them (e.g., hitting a cup, squishing Play-Doh).|
|Games with rules||Most play have flexible rules and it begins with simple social games like peek-a-boo or turn taking games. As language develops, rules become more apparent and are an important part of pretend play when rules are to be negotiated on what is allowed or not allowed. More conventional games with rules are boardgames or card games.|
|Language/communication play||Involves the play on sound and words in an often rhythmic and repetitive sequence that children adapt or invent (i.e., nonsense words, jokes, rhymes).|
|Physical play||Large-motor play: Using large full body movements and explore ways to combine movements such as running, climbing, dancing, or navigating playground. Includes rough-and-tumble play where children chase, wrestle, playfight with one another. Small-motor play: The development, practice, and mastery of fine motor skills such as finger and hand dexterity, and eye-hand coordination (e.g., threading, jigsaw puzzles).|
|Pretend Play||Dramatic Play: The re-enacting of daily events or situations that the child has experienced through observation of others and themselves. (e.g., combing dolls hair, animating a figurine). Role Play: Where children change their behaviour to assume a role of another by acting out the experiences, ideas, or stories in a safe way (e.g., pretending to put out a fire, going shopping and paying for items). Socio-dramatic play: It is the combination of dramatic and social play that involves taking on a social role, elaborates on a common theme with interactions and verbal communication between more than one play partner regarding the play event. Symbolic play: Using object substitution (e.g., using a box as a house) or action substitution (e.g., bringing hand to ear pretending to hold a phone) which is a fluid process of fantasy and imagination.|
Adapted from Burghardt (2011), Huges (2002) and Miller and Almon (2009).
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