Play is essential in a child’s life. As naturally as it comes for children, adults play an important role in encouraging play in all stages of play development. If you need to know more about the different stages of play development, read my first post in the How Kids Play Series: Different Stages of Play Development
Recognizing that there are different stages of play is an important knowledge every adult taking care of children should have. Knowing these stages can teach adults different ways of helping children to play that will contribute to their development.
Zone of Proximal Development
There is a concept in child development known as the Zone of Proximal Development or ZPD. It is defined as the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development through the guidance of adults, and collaboration with more capable peers (Vygotsky, 1978). In layman’s term it is a range of abilities that a child can do but cannot do yet independently.
An example of this is, we know babies can sit down but not immediately. Babies are then able to first lie on their back, lie on their tummies, then sit, then crawl, then walk. With this knowledge, we do not force the baby to stand immediately but help them achieve this by guiding them to do each step at a time. That is to lie on their back, lie on their tummies, and then eventually to walk on their own. This is the zone of proximal development and this put emphasis on an adult’s intervention in a child’s development.
Stages of Play and how Adults can help
Play is natural for children, but adults should help in the process. We help children achieve a certain skill and knowledge with our guidance and assistance. So here are some ways in which adults can help in play development.
1. Unoccupied Play: Adults can sing songs to babies while they explore their bodies. Touch their face, foot hands, etc with their own hands or stimulate by using different textures. Hands and feet toys with bells or that make a sound. (Lamaze toys)
Toys that can be used: Different textured objects: feathers, bells, grains of rice, paper, boxes)
2. Solitary Play: Adults can give attention to what the baby is doing. React to an action the baby does. For example, if the baby drops a toy, adults can react to it by picking up the toy. This may be done repeatedly but this is the way babies make meaning out of what is happening. They learn that if something is thrown, another person would pick it up. Give a word or language to action or emotion the baby does. If the baby places the hand on tummy, adults can say “that’s your tummy!” Sing movement songs. Show the parts of the body as you sing songs to them.
Toys that can be used: Any toy or stuff toys that can be used as another object. Example: toy banana becomes a phone, pail, and shovel becomes a plate and spoon.
3. Onlooker Play: Adults may help in showing how the play or game is done. This may be a stage where children are a little shy or unsure of the game. Adults may let the child observe the children playing and then play it with them afterward.
4. Parallel Play: Adults may arrange playdates with other kids. Place them in a circle and put an equal number of toys for everyone. Monitor children as they play with their own toys and games. Join in the activity so children can see how it works. This is also a good opportunity to teach taking turns and sharing though they would not do it voluntarily at this stage.
Enough number of toys for the kids: Playdough, Sandbox, Kinetic sand, Blocks, Paint and paintbrush, Coloring books, Water tables
5. Associative Play: Adults can play with the children and let them control the games at first. There are usually no rules or objectives for the play, and this is perfectly okay.
Adults can use different toys to show different daily activities or fantasy plays such as princesses, safari, space exploration, etc.
Pretend toys: Blankets for tents, capes, or hair, Blocks, Towers, Twist cars, Art materials
6. Collaborative Play: Adults may now distance themselves in this stage of play. This is when children are already familiar with playing and can understand and follow instructions, rules, and objectives. It is also the stage wherein children create their own games and rules. Taking turns, sharing, and taking losses and wins are essentials values learned in this stage of play. Toys: Board games, Puzzles, Art projects, Sports, Musical Instruments
Helping children in all the stages of play guides them into their development. Each stage is an important factor in helping children advance to the next level. Adults have an important role in play and child development. So, parents, we can always encourage play by being our children’s first playmate. We encourage play in all stages by being their role models. As adults, it is our role to stimulate, initiate, and intervene in children’s play. Doing so would help them achieve the necessary skills in the next stages of their development.
Next Friday, we will be talking more about the different kinds of play for the early years. Stay tuned! If you have any questions or suggestions for our Play Series, please comment them down below! 😊