Play is a crucial form of learning that allows young children to explore the world around them. It allows them to express their feelings, work with others collaboratively, respect each other, make rules, build new ideas and innovate creatively. Children participate in play at different age right from the time they are born. But there lies a difference in the play at different ages of development.
In the following article, we will learn about some cognitive and social types of play found in our preschoolers. The cognitive forms of play we will explore here are cognitive stages given by Sara Smilansky. Likewise, the types of social play are derived from Mildred Parten’s theories and classifications of play.
Children’s curiosity makes them explore different types of resources and equipment around them. When children start using building materials like blocks or equipment that can be used to fix up or construct something, they learn how and why each kind of material is used. They eventually end up manipulating the objects to create something new of them. (For example a bridge that is similar to London Bridge or a road that is similar to the one they walk on every day)
It is observed from children aged 2-5 years. Children at this age love to dress up like different people around them and imitate them or simply fantasize being them. Symbolic play is also known as imaginative, fantasy or pretend play. (Add ‘Facilitating Pretend Play at Home’ as internal link on the blog) This type of play allows children to work out their imagination, thus leading to cognitive development. Dramatic play is “person oriented and not material and /or object oriented” (Smilansky & Shefatya 1990, p3). When preschoolers participate in pretend play, they create vivid images in their mind and use symbols to represent real objects. Developing this skill is extremely essential as this skills can help preschoolers in multiple learning tasks like history or math.
Game with rules:
All the play with set rules helps young children to understand limitations, be patient, concentrate and focus on each other’s turn. The adults should ensure that the set rules are simple for the preschoolers to comprehend. And it is also important to view that games with rules are focused more on enjoyment and learning rather than competition.
Children learn to build associations with their peers by showing interest in them more than the toys around them. Since children’s age is around 3 to 4 years they can also begin a conversation, ask questions to each other about what they are playing. Hence children are often seen working in groups rather than working individually. Their group share a same goal, for example, building a castle.
This type of play is observed to be a part of every preschooler’s play. As the name suggests the young preschoolers learn to play together. They know that it is important to follow rules, wait for their turn for example during team games or group games. Cooperative play also leads to development of new social bonds like friendship. Preschoolers start being with the like-minded peers and develop social and emotional interactions with them.
- Now that we know play in such detail, we can counter argue with a layman who thinks that “play looks all the same.” Play in any form helps the young children develop different skills and at the same time contributes to their overall development. Play not just contains the elements of learning but also growth. Hence, it can now be rightly understood why Maria Montessori always stated Play as the work of the child.
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