Playing is such an important part of a child’s development. This is where they can explore the world in their own way.
They learn through feeling things, looking at things, seeing how things work. For some children, they will naturally begin to engage in play on their own. For others, they need adults to show them how to play. Adults engaging in play with children is so important.
Just like other areas of development, there are different stages of play.
- Solitary Play– this is where a child happily plays on their own and is not particularly interested in other people joining in.
- Onlooker Play – this is where a child will watch their peers playing, but does not join in another child’s play. Children can learn a lot from watching others.
- Parallel Play– this is where a child plays alongside another person but does not actually play with them.
- Associate Play– this is where a child plays with another child, for example both playing in the sand pit, but they don’t interact with one another whilst playing.
- Cooperative Play– this is where a child interacts with their peers when playing the same activity with them. They learn how to communicate with others and take turns in play.
- Symbolic Play– this is where a child uses one object to represent another object. For example, they may pick up a block and pretend it is a phone.
- Imaginative Play– this is where a child uses their imagination to create stories during their play.
- Keep it simple – children don’t need lots of expensive or extravagant toys. The common saying that children can be more interested in a box a toy comes in is so true! Children can use their imagination in play and that cardboard box could be a rocket ship, a boat, a phone or a pet!
- Model how to pretend play with your child so they can learn how to play too.
- Provide a range of objects for your child to explore – show them the functions of each object. E.g. a brush (for brushing hair), a cup (for drinking), a cloth (for washing your face) etc. Put all the items in a bag or an old pillow case, then take out one at a time and show your child – label the item “brush” and then demonstrate how we use it.
- If your child has a teddy or a dolly, encourage your child to use the objects listed above with the teddy or dolly. For example, “give teddy a drink” – this will help your child to develop their symbolic skills – understanding that the toy teddy or dolly is a symbol of a real person.
Your child’s Speech and Language Therapist will be able to provide you with specific activities matched to your child’s current level of play.