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Types of Play Play is the work of childhood.

It's the laboratory in which children figure out how the world works, who they are, who they might be, and what they can and cannot do. But not all play is the same, either in its style or its effect. If you closely watch some of the different types of play your child engages in, you'll see how she is taking on the world. Symbolic Play Parallel Play Imaginary Play Collaborative Play

Symbolic Play To an infant or a young toddler, a block is a block. If she has more than one, she might stack them or pull them apart. But once she's about 2 years old, she can start using blocks for much more. In her eyes they can become a house, a car, or anything else she wants. Toys become symbols for other objects. Your child may try to feed her doll as if it were another baby. If you look carefully, you may see that she sometimes holds her doll or teddy bear the same way you hold her. This type of symbolic representation shows you how sophisticated her brain is becoming. It also allows her to prepare for or work through potentially frightening events. For example, a savvy pediatricians who needs to check your child's ears for infection may begin by looking in the ears of the doll she brought with her to the exam. That allows the toddler to anticipate what will happen to her and helps remove her anxieties. Parallel Play Toddlers need playmates, yet they play with them quite differently from the way older children play together. Place two 18-month-olds with similar toys near each other in the same room, and you'll note that they don't seem to pay much attention to each other. But look more closely, and you'll notice that if one picks up a truck, the other is likely to do the same. If the first child looks at that truck and says, "No" (a toddler's favourite word), the second is likely to imitate him and yell, "No!" as well. If the toddlers are old enough to have more advanced verbal skills, you might overhear them having what sounds like a conversation that doesn't make sense. "Puppy ride car." "That's a big truck!" "Is puppy hungry?" "My truck. Vroom, vroom!" This is an example of parallel play. Unlike older children, who interact and communicate directly, toddlers play in parallel. While they may appear to be playing independently, kids this age are keeping an eye on each other's behaviour. Parallel play is often a first step in forming strong social relationships outside of the family. Parallel playmates are your child's first friends.

Imaginary Play Among young children, the line between fantasy and reality is delightfully fuzzy. An older toddler or a preschooler can fight dragons or fly to the moon, all without leaving his bedroom. If you want to build a child this age a fort, all you need are two chairs and a blanket to drape over them. Pretend play serves many purposes and pushes the boundaries of play. It allows your child to explore new ideas and experience life from a different perspective. Starting at around age 3, pretend play often expands to include the creation of imaginary companions. These pretend friends often do things that the child cannot or dares not. A pretend buddy may be highly demanding or speak rudely to adults and older children. He may have magical powers or tremendous strength or wisdom. This is a way for a child to experience life from a different perspective and to toy with the notion of power. It's also a way to fix the blame on someone else when the child spills juice on the Persian carpet. While the appearance of an imaginary companion sometimes worries parents, it should not. In fact, it should be celebrated. Research by Dr. Jerome Singer at Yale University found that preschoolers who had imaginary companions also tended to have greater imaginations and bigger vocabularies than their peers who did not. In addition, they were generally happier and got along better with classmates. Interestingly, quite a few of those children didn't tell their parents about their imaginary companions. Collaborative Play Preschoolers progress from solitary and parallel play to collaborative play. It's at this stage that your child learns to master important new social skills, such as sharing, taking turns, obeying rules, and negotiating. These are all very difficult behaviours for a young child to learn. After all, at this age, your child believes she is the centre of the universe! Sharing. When a preschooler wants something, the thought of giving it up to someone else is almost unbearable. Learning to share is made even more complex by the confusing ways in which we use the word share. (If we ask a child to share her toys, she'll get them back in a short while, but if we ask her to share her cookies, she never gets them back!) Preschoolers have an easier time sharing if they've already spent a lot of time playing games in which they give something to a parent and then get it back again. Taking turns. A preschooler's desires are urgent and immediate. When she wants something, she wants it NOW! Taking turns requires that she delay gratification and imagine what it's like being the other children who are playing. The empathy she has already learned at home and during parallel play will help. Obeying rules. All young children want to win the games they play. Most will do whatever they can to win, even if they have to cheat a bit. While we adults may indulge them, their peers will not, resulting in meaningful (and tough) lessons on the importance of following rules. Negotiating. Who gets to go first? How do you decide which game to play? Who gets to be the sheriff and who will be the deputy? Collaborative play requires your child to give as well as take, to compromise on what he wantsa hard thing to accept when you're the centre of the universe. But once your child can negotiate, share, take turns, and follow rules, he will be well on his way to navigating the school playground, the high school dance, the college dormitory, and the corporate boardroom. So watch your child when he plays. You'll gain tremendous insights into not only his social development but his thinking abilities as well. Besides, it's a lot of fun.

Play is a serious business. The pioneering developmental psychologist Lev Vygotsky thought that, in the preschool years, play is the leading source of development. Through play children learn and practice many basic social skills. They develop a sense of self, learn to interact with other children, how to make friends, how to lie and how to role-play. The classic study of how play develops in children was carried out by Mildred Parten in the late 1920s at the Institute of Child Development in Minnesota. She closely observed children between the ages of 2 and 5 years and categorised their play into six types. Parten collected data by systematically sampling the children's behaviour. She observed them for prearranged 1 minute periods which were varied systematically (Parten, 1933). The thing to notice is that the first four categories of play don't involve much interaction with others, while the last two do. While children shift between the types of play, what Parten noticed was that as they grew up, children participated less in the first four types and more in the last two - those which involved greater interaction. 1. Unoccupied play: the child is relatively stationary and appears to be performing random movements with no apparent purpose. A relatively infrequent style of play. 2. Solitary play: the child is are completely engrossed in playing and does not seem to notice other children. Most often seen in children between 2 and 3 years-old. 3. Onlooker play: child takes an interest in other children's play but does not join in. May ask questions or just talk to other children, but the main activity is simply to watch. 4. Parallel play: the child mimics other children's play but doesn't actively engage with them. For example they may use the same toy. 5. Associative play: now more interested in each other than the toys they are using. This is the first category that involves strong social interaction between the children while they play. 6. Cooperative play: some organisation enters children's play, for example the playing has some goal and children often adopt roles and act as a group. Unlike Jean Piaget who saw children's play in primarily cognitive developmental terms, Parten emphasised the idea that learning to play is learning how to relate to others.

Types of Play Motor/Physical Play Motor play provides critical opportunities for children to develop both individual gross and fine muscle strength and overall integration of muscles, nerves, and brain functions. Recent research has confirmed the critical link between stimulating activity and brain development. Young children must have ample opportunities to develop physically, and motor play instills this disposition toward physical activity in young children. Social Play A variety of opportunities for children to engage in social play are the best mechanisms for progressing through the different social stages. By interacting with others in play settings, children learn social rules such as, give and take, reciprocity, cooperation, and sharing. Through a range of interactions with children at different social stages, children also learn to use moral reasoning to develop a mature sense of values. To be prepared to function effectively in the adult world, children need to participate in lots of social situations. Constructive Play Constructive play is when children manipulate their environment to create things. This type of play occurs when children build towers and cities with blocks, play in the sand, construct contraptions on the woodworking bench, and draw murals with chalk on the sidewalk. Constructive play allows children to experiment with objects; find out combinations that work and don t work; and learn basic knowledge about stacking, building, drawing, making music and constructing. It also gives children a sense of accomplishment and empowers them with control of their environment. Children who are comfortable manipulating objects and materials also become good at manipulating words, ideas and concepts. Fantasy Play Children learn to abstract, to try out new roles and possible situations, and to experiment with language and emotions with fantasy play. In addition, children develop flexible thinking; learn to create beyond the here and now; stretch their imaginations, use new words and word combinations in a risk-free environment, and use numbers and words to express ideas, concepts, dreams, and histories. In an evermore technological society, lots of practice with all forms of abstraction time, place, amount, symbols, words, and ideas is essential. Games With Rules Developmentally, most children progress from an egocentric view of the world to an understanding of the importance of social contracts and rules. Part of this development occurs as they learn that games like Follow the Leader, Red Rover, Simon Says, baseball and soccer cannot function without everyone adhering to the same set of rules. The games with rules concept teaches children a critically important concept the game of life has rules (laws) that we all must follow to function productively.