Tuesday, October 20, 2015

6 types of play

Play is an important part of childhood. Playing is a child's job and how children learn. They learn social skills, how to problem solve and the importance of sharing. Mildred Parten was a sociologist and researcher at the University of Minnesota's Institute of Child Development. She came up with six types of play children participate in. They are: onlooker play, solitary play, parallel play, associate play, cooperative play and imaginative play.

Onlooker play is when children watch other children play and don't join in the play themselves. Most children will participate in onlooker play, but can be encouraged to engage in play if an adult or other child helps them. For example if an adult sits beside them and plays along with them the first few minutes a child can be encouraged to start to play. I had a child that participated in onlooker play at the second center I worked at.  All children participate in onlooker play but this child was a little different. Where most children can be encouraged to play, this child couldn't. If I asked her if she wanted to play in the sandbox she would shake her head, if I asked her if she wanted to play in the sensory table she would shake her head no. All she did most of the day was stand by me and watch the other children play. I would talk to her as she stood beside me about what the other  children were doing and what she thought about it and would always ask if she wanted to join in, but she always said no, so we just talked about what they were doing and I engaged her through conversation instead. Children are learning more than adults think when they're observing other children play so don't be concerned if you have a child who participates in this kind of play more than the other types.

Solitary play is just like it sounds, it's play that is done by oneself. Solitary play is done mainly by children birth to two years old. A child will sit by a parent and play by themselves but if the parent gets up and walks away the child will follow the parent. Parallel play is when children play beside one another but are still focused on what they're playing with, not on what the child next to them is doing. The children know they are playing beside someone but they are not engaged with that person in any way and are playing with different toys.

Associative play is when children enjoy playing with one another but don't know how to. For example, if children are sitting in a sandbox and a child is putting sand in their diaper instead of a pail, another child in the sandbox who sees this will put the sand in their diaper too instead of a pail. A child does this because they don't know how to play in appropriate ways and need to be taught how what appropriate play is. Cooperative play is when children engage in activities with other children and use roles and scripts when playing that determines what they're going to play based on roles. For example, someone is the fireman, someone is the policeman and someone is the person who needs to be rescued. Imaginative play is when children use materials and objects for expression. For example, when children build a fort and pretend it's a space shuttle.

An important part of play is being able to share. There are three stages of development to sharing. The first one is when children think everything is 'Mine.' It's referred to the 'mine' stage because children call everything 'mine.' The second stage of sharing is when children discover some things belong to others. For example, if a child takes a toy that belongs to them over to a friends house and the toy gets left on the table and a younger sibling sees the toy, the younger sibling will take the toy to the friend and give it to them. The third stage of sharing is when children understand they can lend a toy to a friend and get it back.  Regardless of age, if a child is tired or cranky for some reason, they can temporarily go back to the first stage of sharing.

Children participate in all six stages of play as they grow and each stage teaches them different skills and appropriate social skills.  Children will also at some time or another go through each developmental stage of sharing. Children will participate in each stage of play and go through each stage of sharing at their own pace as children develop at different rates. Play helps children develop dexterity skills and learn leadership skills along with many other life skills they need to understand and develop. This is why it's important not to interrupt play unnecessarily. What looks like play to an adult is really children learning and developing life skills.

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