Promoting different types of play

Shannon Stevely

Faculty: Health, Social Care & Education
Department: School of Education and Social Care
Course: BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies
Category: Education

24 August 2018

Two children playing

Student Ambassador Shannon is studying Early Childhood Studies at ARU; in this blog she discusses how the way children play together changes as they grow.

All children will participate in different types of play depending on their age to help their Personal, Social, and Emotional Development (PSED).

It is important to promote children’s PSED daily so they can begin to know themselves as individuals, understand their feelings and emotions, and learn how to control them. A good opportunity to promote this is at group time when all the children are together. Get them to talk about how they are feeling and place their picture on a board which has the different emotions. This is a great way to promote PSED and to get children to begin to understand how their friends are feeling.

There are different types of play children will go through. Some children like to play on their own which is known as solitary play. At the age of 2-3, children start to play on their own and may be unaware of others around them during play. At that stage, free play activities should be available for children and adults should show children how to do different activities so they can begin to learn new skills; this is also the beginning of social interaction.

Another common type of play is onlooker. This is where children begin to look at other children playing and start to ask questions about what they are doing or playing with. However, the child does not normally tend to join in, as they may be shy or might not understand the purpose of the game. This shows that the child is still learning different emotions and developing their knowledge of the world around them. At this age, children tend to not have any concept of rules to games.

Toddlers and older children tend to participate in parallel play. This is when children play alongside each other but do not interact. This is the beginning of understanding spatial awareness and learning how to share toys. This is an important stage for children to participate in because it is the start of them socialising more.

At pre-school age, children are more socially interactive, and more interested in talking to their peers than in toys. When children are playing they will interact with others and begin to ask questions about what they are playing, what have you got there or even talking about what toys they are playing with. A common activity for this type of play is building blocks. Children will begin to build towers, and this will become a common activity until they have developed more critical thinking and imaginative skills and think of other things to build, like a rocket for example.

Social play is the most common type of play you will see older children doing. This is because they are more confident in speaking about their ideas and wanting to play together. Role play activities offer great opportunities for children to develop here: they can play in groups and can decide what role each person is going to carry out. This enhances children’s sharing, being flexible with one another, problem solving and social skills through communicating and using their language.

Adults should also participate in children’s activities to enhance their learning and development. Children may not always want you to be involved, but it can be a great way for children to build their confidence and ideas when playing with different toys.


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