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Stages of Play in Young Children
By Viola M. Ramseyer, MA ZA* endorsement
Children go through different stages of play
as they grow and develop. Very young
infants only have the ability to attend to one object at a time. Once an object is out of their sight, it is
quickly forgotten. Infants play by themselves because they are so busy
exploring and discovering their new world.
Every new object or situation that is introduced is a new learning
experience for the newborn. This very first stage of play is called “Solitary Play” or independent play.
They are fully engaged in gathering information and storing it for further
use. This stage of play lasts until some
where around nine months. This is a very self centered time for the developing
The second stage of play begins to
ripen in slightly older children usually by the time a child is two years of
age. “Parallel Play” is typical of this age child. This kind of play involves two or more
children in the same room. They are interested in the same toys and both see
the toy as belonging to them. Hence they
maybe in the same area and play with similar toys, but they do not play
together. They are playing along side
each other simply because they are in the same area.
When children extend their knowledge
and play experiences they move into “Associative
Play”. In this stage, three and four
year old children begin playing together but it is a loosely organized
fashion. The more mature child soon
emerges as the leader or organizer in this stage of play. They see themselves as capable and able to
tell others what to do, the younger child seldom questions this authority that
the more mature child has cultivated.
Finally the child expands into “Cooperative Play” somewhere between
the ages of four or five. Cooperative
play takes place between two or more children as they grow and develop socially
and emotionally. In cooperative play,
children exchange ideas about the game or the toy they are playing with at that
moment in time. Rules tend to still be very
loosely constructed, but children know who is playing which role in their game.
Play may last only a few minutes or it may stretch out for longer periods of
time. Gradually they learn to respect
the property rights of others. This is a
clue that they are gaining social skills; at this same time they begin to
understand that they need permission to play with certain materials and certain
people. They are also more willing to
share their toys for the sake of the game.
Communication about the play is the critical point of cooperative play.
It is important to note that
children differ widely according to birth order within their own families. Boys
and girls develop in different areas at different stages of their life, so
there is never complete adherence to any of these exact ages. Not all children move through the stages at
the same rate, because children who have more life experiences tend to emerge
as leaders or organizers at younger ages.
Confidence, shyness, and other personality traits factor into these
stages of play.
*Specialist in Early Childhood Development
What is there to do? We're bored! Sound familiar?
Well, in our home these are foreign words. They are words that are not
allowed to be uttered in front of an adult for fear it might come back
to them in the form of some dreaded weed pulling or other house work.
Well, these were words I have heard a little too often this summer from
friends who have frequented our house. On one such occasion, one of the
little treasures proceeded to tell me she NEEEDED a Nintendo DS because
she gets so bored at home.
She explained that
there's nothing to do at home and after all a person could only watch
so much tv. Seriously? You're 6! How is it possible that the world is
so dull to you already that you need constant stimulation? How did
these children become so jaded at such a young age. When I was a kid,
especially at my grandma's house, you never said you were bored or
asked to watch tv. You would wind up with a rag in one hand and Pledge
in the other. Oh and by the way, you didn't get paid for it. Can you
imagine the child abuse that went on?? How cruel and cold the world was
for my generation.
As I thought about this interaction of needs
and desires of 6 year olds, I was reminded of a batch e-mail that went
out awhile back. It said something to the effect of those of us in my
generation, born before 1980, were some of the most creative,
inventive, and adventurous people the planet has known. Now, I realized
that sounds a bit arrogant, but hear me out. As a whole, my generation
tended to take risks. Remember sitting in the back of pick up trucks,
all the way to San Francisco?
That one was for my mom. Remember
no seat belts? Remember to cherry drop flips off the monkey bars over
concrete? I imagine there were a few head injuries, but we weren't so
fearful. I grew up in So. Cal, and we would spend hours at the beach.
This is were I learned to swim. We would go and play in the water, my
mom may have been in the water or not.
As I got older I am sure
she hung out on the beach a little and swam a little, meaning there
were times when I could go in the water by myself. My friends and I
would go in, body surf and get out only to find ourselves four or five
life-guard stations away from where we started. Can anyone relate? As I
write this, I cringe to think about my little ones swimming alone at
the beach. Mostly because of all the trash and needles they may
encounter. I want them to be risk takers. I want them to have a lust
for life and all that this life has to offer. As it is now one of my
children is cautious to a fault. Maybe he will just be a conservative
little adult. One of my other children on the other hand is a certified
risk taker. She's frightening really. And, as always, the verdict is
still out on tiny.
I realize I want my children to take risks,
and to enjoy this life that God has given them. As I pray daily for our
children, one of my prayers is they would use the wisdom God has given
them in order to discern whether a risk is worth it. I sit here and try
to imagine what that might be. Sky diving? Base jumping? Leaving
everything and becoming a missionary in the deepest darkest places of
the world? Who knows.
I pray they would not be conformed to the
patterns of the world around them, playing mind numbing games for
hours, or watching mindless tv for longer than that. Or worse yet,
sitting around saying "I'm bored!" Being bored should be illegal. I can
just imagine getting a ticket for uttering those dreadful words.
Eventually, the penalty may be one couldn't buy video games, or movies,
or pool toys again because they have allowed themselves to have a lack
of imagination. Yes you heard me, I believe pool toys create a lack of
imagination. I have only heard one time kids playing Marco Polo.
Maybe it's unsafe.
know having your eyes closed and wandering around a pool. Who knows. In
any case, the food for thought may be, are we raising namby pamby
boring people who never think outside the box, therefore making this
the safest yet dullest time the world has ever known? As a self
proclaimed adventure girl, I shutter to think of such a tragedy!
Parents Are the First Teachers
By Viola M Ramseyer MA ZA* endorsement
With all of the books that have come out in recent years on how to rear children, many parents feel inadequate and insecure. They feel that unless they have read all of the experts in the field they just can’t hope to measure up to the task at hand. This is not the truth! Studies show that the parents are their children’s first and most important teacher.
Watch your infant. Even before you think they are capable of much of anything except sleeping, eating, messing up your schedule, and needing a diaper change; they are learning from you, reading you if you will. The gentleness of your touch even in the middle of the night lets a child know they are cherished and valued. They know instinctively that this big person cares for their needs when they cry, but does it come with tenderness or is this person gruff and irritable. They respond in kind to the soft, quiet voice and manner of the parent; or with fear to the brusque handling they receive if the converse is true.
Consistent behaviors tend to make a child feel secure and sure of which way their world is turning, soon they learn that their actions and reactions to the human race also affect their little world and this makes them feel powerful; in control. Ask any young parent of a newborn and they will tell you “she rules our home now.” Children need to know, however, that they can depend on the adult to take that role back whenever the child feels out of control. So it is a fine balance between control and being controlled.
Infants who have assurance that they are valued and controlled are ready to learn other things in their new ever changing sphere. They can refuse to eat or nurse when they are not hungry; they can smile, laugh out loud, cry or squeal to get attention. What parent’s heart does not melt the moment their infant gives them that big toothless grin or that first slobbery kiss on the cheek.
Children know intuitively that they are now in control of their parent’s heart. From this point on all learning is based on giving and taking. Still the parent is doing most of the giving, get used to it! These little people are learning just how many smiles, coos, giggles, or kisses it takes to get the parent to give into whatever their little needs require.
Quickly they learn to hold toys or hold their bottle, to be somewhat helpful. Who taught them that skill, it does not just happen; they learned it from you. They learn to roll over, creep along the floor to get to a desired object. Infants study how it is that you sit, stand, throw, etc. as they are ready for this stage of development; and where did they learn it, from their parent, of course. At each level of change, the parent is the one that the child has the most opportunity to observe, so the child practices what they see.
By the time they reach their first day care or kindergarten class they have been taught many useful things from their parents. They have gained a wealth of knowledge, and become skilled at all of the life skills they need to move into this next stage of their expansion.
Teachers only dare to draw closer to a group of children after the parent has helped them move along to a more independent stage of life. Your job is not complete, as a parent does not give the reins completely over to the rest of the world until the child is 18 years of age. Studies show that even in the teen years, the parent is still the most influential person in their offspring’s life. So be encouraged, do your best to show your child how important they are in your life, you will surely reap the rewards of all your hard work.
*Specialist in Early Childhood Development
“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a
luxury. Play is a necessity.” – Kay Redfield
It has been said that parents are their child’s
first playmates. Research shows that children who play regularly with
their parents, grandparents, or other extended family members enjoy the
greatest developmental benefits. Here are some great ideas for spending
creative, imaginative, and quality playtime with your child.
Toy Industry Association, Inc.
Share a favorite toy, game or storybook from your childhood with
your child and create a new memory.
Explore the world of one of your child’s favorite characters.
See a movie, read a story or play a game featuring their cartoon or
Tell a story about when you were young and have your child do the
Create a photo memory book that you can enjoy and pass on to
generations to come.
Teach your child a skill. Whether it’s playing an instrument,
playing catch or even tying their shoe laces, they’ll never forget
who taught them.
Cook in the kitchen together. It not only helps your child learn
reasoning, math and reading skills, but you’ll have a tasty treat
to share with friends and family as well.
Plan a game night. Have members of the family of all ages
participate. Take turns picking favorite games to play. (You might find
a new favorite!)
Get crafty! Paint pictures together, knit a scarf, make jewelry or
get a craft kit. You can even give the finished products as gifts to
other family members for birthdays and holidays.
Get moving! Play a game of Frisbee, toss a ball, or engage in some
other activity that gets you both up and active. It will help both you
and your child stay sharp and fit.
Enjoy downtime. Don’t forget to relax and enjoy watching your
children playing on their own or with friends.
Note: All prices in US Dollars