What types of play are your children doing?

Kinds of play

Today I am a child and my work is play
Anita Wadley, early childhood educator, 1974.

Play is one of the basic needs for children's development and everywhere we turn we hear about the importance of play, but have you thought about what type of play your child, or the children you care for, are doing? What type of play do they enjoy most? This may depend upon their age and stage of development as explained in the main stages of play: 

  • Solitary play - The child plays alone
  • Parallel play - The children play alongside each other
  • Associative play - The children begin to interact
  • Cooperative play - The children play co-operatively together

The type of play that children engage in  may depend on the environment or the child's temperament and mood.

Play may be structured, where someone else makes the rules and decisions. 
Play may be unstructured, where the child is self-directed or takes all of the initiative.

Sometimes children like to play alone and sometimes they enjoy playing with others.

Other kinds of play:
Active play - using the whole body to be move
Constructive play - using something to make something new
Creative play - creating things
Dramatic play - imagining, pretending
Exploratory play - investigating and exploring materials
Manipulative play - handling small things with fingers and hands
Sensory play - learning through our senses
Symbolic play -  objects represent other things
Imitative play - copy the actions of others

Points to Remember:

  1. Children need hands on experience to learn
  2. Children do not divide their learning into categories: one play activity can encompass many kinds of play and learning. For example sand play can be solitary, parallel, associative or co-operative play and can help us learn skills in language, science, maths and is active and manipulative and sensory play and can be constructive, creative, dramatic and exploratory.
  3. Children need freedom to explore and learn on their own terms

Read in more depth about the main stages of play.

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