Stages of play Essay

Solitary playBabies and young children will play alone. They rely on their senses to gather information.

They are interested in sound, taste, smell and what they look like. Young children will automatically put objects in the mouth to explore them. Later they will push, pull, take apart, put together, put in, take out, build up and knock down. They find pleasure in observing their own movements.

At about 1 year of age the child develops primitive sense of play involving interaction. For example he drops a rattle from the pram so an adult picks it up or he crawls after a ball when an adult rolls it. By simple games a learning bond is formed. Spectator play (or onlooker play)Soon the child will act as a spectator of others.

He/she will then play alongside others, using careful observation, but does not join in. The child will either be taking part in the same activity of be doing a completely different activity. Parallel playAt about 2 years of age children enjoy playing near other children, although each of them will be involved in separate activities. Children at this stage are not playing together, but alongside each other. They use the same play things and share these, but play side by side rather than co-operatively and remain engrossed in their own activity. Associative playThis generally occurs between 3 and 4 years. There are short spells of interaction with peers.

The child can enjoy a little sharing or playing with the same toy, but will soon return to a game of their own. At this stage each child usually has their own play agenda. Within associative play conflict can arise when the children have different ideas to their peers and these ideas are not shared. Social/co-operative playThis generally occurs from the ages of 4 to 5 years. Children start to interact and play together, entering into imaginative, intellectual, physical and social play. Some sharing and turn taking difficulties are present. Solitary, spectator and parallel play still go on, but social play becomes increasingly important. Language is developing rapidly andinteraction stimulates this skill to develop.

At this stage children will play their own imaginary games, organising themselves into roles e.g. ‘you be the doctor and I’ll be the patient’.


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