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How to Teach Play- #1 What is Play?

What is play?
Play is THE most important thing children do! Children learn through play. If you want your children to learn, teach them through play. A toddler's job is playing, their days should be consumed by play. 

-OK, I get it! But what does play look like for a toddler?

There are many stages of play from infants cooing and kicking to children having extensive Lego cities. We categorize play to help with the understanding of the larger concept. The six categories were developed by Sociologist Mildred Parten. 

Stages of Play:
1. Unoccupied Play- This is the play of infants; kicking, cooing, swatting 
2. Solo Play- When toddlers are playing by themselves
3. Onlooker Play- When a toddler watches others play and absorbs or learns from their play
4. Parallel Play- Playing in the same room with children side by side but not engaged in the same activity 
5. Associative Play- Playing with the same toys as other children but not interacting with eachother
6. Cooperative Play- Playing together

As children grow they phase through these Stages of Play. You can expect your child to phase through these forms from infancy to around the age of six. (Or sooner depending on their maturity)

These are very simple definitions just to give you an idea of the different stages of play. It is not important that you know the details but just that you understand, you cannot expect a two year old to jump into a game of Hide and Seek on the playground with other children. You cannot teach the Stages of Play, children cycle through them on their own depending on their development. It is not a testament to the parent, or the child for that matter, to move through the types, it is just developmental readiness. 

Besides the Stages of Play there are Types of Play that help us understand play. These categories are broken up into 4 groups that give you a clearer picture of play.

Types of Play:
1. Dramatic/Imaginative Play- Using your body to act out play- role playing/dress-up 
2. Competitive Play- Playing with another child(ren) in the form of a game where a child can win and lose
3. Physical Play- This is when motor skills are being used, this can but does not have to involve others
4. Constructive Play- Playing that involves building, maybe using blocks or using toys to make cities

Children tend to show interest in one or two Types of Play more than the others. This is normal and although they can use the other forms they prefer their favorite. These Types of Play are usually identified in children once they have moved into the Cooperative Play Stage.

This is the first post in a Series of posts on Play. Check back for the next post: #2 What Should we Expect from our Children? 


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