What You Need To Know About The Stages Of Play In Children

By in Parenting on 27 April 2009

A child’s behavior during play may vary, and it can greatly depend on his developmental stage. A young child may refuse to play with others, while some kids may easily have conflicts with kids of the same age. Even if you provide plenty of materials to play with, conflict may still be inevitable for some children.

If you feel frustrated at how you want your young child to get along peacefully with others, it may help if you try to understand his behavior in relation to the stage of development that he is in. Play is an integral aspect of a child’s life, and aside from being recreational, it also helps a child to learn more about himself and his surroundings.

During the stage of infancy, babies are generally engaged in solitary and observatory play. As they learn more about their environment, they may increasingly become aware of how their senses can help them learn about the things around them. They can take pleasure even by looking at their parent’s faces, and hearing musical mobiles that produce various sounds.

Age-appropriate toys for this stage are those that can be stimulate their developing senses like rattles, squeeze toys, mobiles, and other toys with different textures and colors. At this stage, they can pretty much keep themselves occupied, or they’d much rather play by themselves.

With the onset of the toddler years, a child may already show parallel play. Although a toddler may already notice other kids in a play area, he may still not be capable of playing with them. If you try to observe toddlers at play, you may notice that they are not really interacting or playing with each other. This is often called side-by-side play, which can easily be misinterpreted as unfriendliness.

However, this behavior is expected of a toddler, and conflicts may even be expected especially when they are already aware about the concept of property rights. Ideal toys for toddlers are those that promote autonomy. These may include push or pull toys, pounding boards, drums, stacking toys, and toy telephones.

Preschoolers on the other hand, may already be capable of joining a particular play activity that has little organization of responsibilities. This type of play is called associative play, and kids can participate well when the activity is loosely organized. They are more sociable as compared to toddlers, but futile attempts to relate with others may also end in arguments. Conflicts may be common because a child may be more certain of his role in a group. At this stage, kids may be more interested at imitative play like playing house, or role-playing.

The last type of play is called cooperative play. School-aged kids are already developmentally capable of joining organized games with fixed rules. They are also capable of sharing, and respecting another person’s role in the group, which may rarely result to conflicts with others. School-age kids are also capable of competing against each other to attain a particular goal. This is then the time for kids to get involved with group activities in school like being involved in sports.

For each developmental stage that your child goes through, try not to rush things. For a toddler, he may have quite a transition in terms of sharing and relating with others. Try to be supportive, and provide plenty of opportunities for interaction. Give your child time to adjust, and try to redirect or address inappropriate behavior at the right time. Short playtimes may generally be good for young kids, and you can gradually build your child’s activities as time passes.

It can be challenging to encourage healthy developmental play in children, when you also need to modify your approaches at each level. While there is no easy way, the best that we can do about it is to enjoy each and every transition. After all, it is only during early childhood that kids can become prince or princesses, movie stars, superheroes, or even pirates in their hearts. With rich imaginations, surely there are no limits.


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