The Significance of Play
Children love to play and play often mirrors what is important in their lives. When asked about play children talk about having fun, being with friends, choosing activities independently and being outdoors. Play can take place inside or outside and develops as children grow and change. Children play for different reasons. Sometimes they are exploring or learning new things. At other times they are consolidating existing learning or practising a skill. Play can also be a way of building or strengthening a relationship. Children often play simply for fun and enjoyment. They bring their own interpretations of situations, events, experiences, and expectations to their play.
Children need time to develop their play. They like having spaces inside and outside, and often enjoy playing with other children and adults. They also need props such as toys, open-ended materials and real objects to play with and manipulate. They love to make choices about when, what, where, how, and with whom to play. These guidelines offer information and suggestions on how adults can extend and enrich children’s learning and development through play.
The first stage, solitary play, starts in infancy. In this stage, infants are exploring their environment, constantly discovering new things, and learning from them. Solitary play continues into the toddler years. The children, playing alone, are completely absorbed in what they are doing and are not paying attention to others. They may be playing near others but they are playing alone with their own toys without notice of the other children.
Parallel play is the next stage. It is common in toddlers but can occur in any age group. Children will be in the same room with other children, they will play with similar toys, but they do not play with each other. They are observant of others and may copy how others are playing but seldom interact with them. They are playing beside them rather than with them.
The third stage, associative play, occurs when children are about three and four years old. These preschoolers play together in loosely structured activities. Although they play together and talk with each other, they are not working together in an organized manner to create something.
Cooperative play, the fourth stage, begins emerging at four and five years old. As their social and emotional development matures, children play cooperatively with others. Their play has an organized structure and children will communicate with each other as they work together towards a common goal. In this play stage, children learn respect for others people’s property, realize they may need permission to use others’ materials, and are more willing to share their toys.
It is important to remember that children move through the different levels of play at different rates. They may also exhibit play behaviours associated with more than one stage depending on the nature of their interests and engagements.
Are there different types of play?
Play helps children to develop a broader range of skills and understandings. You can support and encourage your child to engage in a wide range of play through dialogue and the provision of diverse and interesting environments, objects, and materials.
The different types of play include:
Source: Queensland Department of Education (Australia), http://deta.qld.gov.au/earlychildhood/pdfs/tip-sheets/different-types-play.pdf