Thursday, March 31, 2011

Types of Play

Children play in all sorts of ways and for adults, whether we be parents or educators, it is sometimes hard to decipher what if any learning is taking place. It is imperative that we recognize that children are always learning. As adults we like to think highly of ourselves and sometimes act as if not for our interference children would forever be blank slates. Nothing could be further from the truth. We do have our place and it is an important one. We can certainly facilitate learning, we can encourage and we can provide fertile opportunities for learning, but it is equally important that we take a step back and allow children to learn and to play without our input. It is helpful to identify the different types of "play" we experience throughout of lives to remind us that play is vital and not frivolous. The ages are we when can see these types of play begin. There is no end age, we should strive to play throughout our lifetime.





Types of Play


  1. Unoccupied Play ~ Birth to 3 months ~ An infant occupies himself listening to the sounds around him, become familiar with new textures and trying to control motor function. Is there anything more joyous than the sight of your own hand and being able to bring it to your mouth to suck on it?
  2. Solitary Play ~ 3 to 18 months ~ A child starts to discover the world around him. The stuffed animal in his crib moves at his touch. As he begin to crawl he find new things to be curious about and new sounds and sights to discover. This type of play continues throughout life.
  3. Onlooker Play ~ 18 months and beyond ~ Known in the adult world as a spectator, you are not actively involved in the activity but you participate by watching, cheering etc.
  4. Parallel Play ~ 18 months to 2 years ~ Playing side by side with another child but not actively engaged in what they are doing. My husband and I engage in parallel play almost every night. We sit together on the couch each with our laptops working or reading or playing games individually. It is not as much fun if we are in separate rooms or cities.
  5. Associative Play ~ 3 to 4 years ~ The beginning of true socialization. You are playing together, sharing, cooperating and even negotiating.
  6. Social Play ~ 4 years and beyond ~ We begin to see moral reasoning come into play. What is fair and not fair. We see a development of values. An other child may allow a younger child a head start etc.
  7. Motor/Physical Play ~happening all the time~ Using physical strength, motor skills etc. Games such as jumping rope, dodge ball or ring around the rosie come into the picture.
  8. Constructive Play ~ happening all the time ~ Explorations of objects and patterns. For older children this take place when building with blocks or Lego's. It's a confidence gaining task.
  9. Expressive Play ~ happening throughout life ~ Play-doh, paints, rhythms, music, anything that can help express moods or feelings.
  10. Fantasy Play ~ as early as 4 years ~ Pretend play often trying on adult roles. Children are learning to think abstractly, they are working out the adult world and making sense of things.
  11. Cooperative Play ~ as early as 4 but usually better suited for middle childhood ~ These are group games with specific rules and one leader. Little League, basketball, soccer etc.




This is where the dance between children and adults begins. We must strive to let children have time for unoccupied play, but there is also much to learn from structure play. It is our responsibility to learn when to step in and when to step back. It is completely appropriately to encourage a child to try one more time at bat, but it is inappropriate to launch a child down a slide alone if he is frightened or not physically capable of holding his head up. We must always meet the child where he is physically, emotional and cognitively and we must always remember that play should be joyful.

It is my hope that this information inspires you to include play and playfulness to not just your curriculum, but also to your own lives.

Playfully yours,

Alida