Incorporating The Social Stages Of Play During Child Care Activities

child care activities

child care activities

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Playtime is a vital part of your child’s development and should be integral to child care activities. At Stone Brook Academy, we value play and believe that it is the source of a great deal of learning and growth that cannot be found in other activities. Holistic and inclusive activities are the cornerstone of an enriching experience for your child.

Various Types of Play During Child Care Activities

So much of your child’s basic, foundational learning occurs through play in their early years. This is particularly true for the social skills which they acquire. When facilitated through child care activities, social play builds children’s decision-making, problem-solving, conflict, and general group skills. The levels and types of social play develop over time and offer new opportunities for growth and learning for your child. Mildred Parten Newhall, an American sociologist, conducted extensive research into the benefits of play. In this article, we discuss her six types of social play, why they are important and how they are addressed and put into practice in the play environment.

  • Unoccupied Play

    We’ve all noticed the random movements that infants make when they are on their own, not seemingly actively engaging with any objects or other individuals. But these movements made by infants between the ages of 0 and 2 are a form of play. They set the foundations for more engaged and purposeful social play and development in the years to follow. Additionally, any object, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you, can be a source of amazement for your child.

  • Solitary Play

    This type of play usually occurs between 2 and 3 years old. Rather than interacting with other children around them, young toddlers may play alone with their toys. Independent, solitary play does not mean that your toddler has problems socializing with other children. Instead of directly playing with other kids, this type of play is common at this age as social, physical and cognitive skills are still developing. Solitary play helps toddlers be independent and keep themselves busy (which is great for us parents!). Educational centers should be full of books and toys which children can play with on their own.

  • Onlooker Play

    Onlooker play happens when your child observes other children playing. This stage is important because a child discovers how other children play. They learn social skills that come in handy later when playing and interacting with others. Your young one will even observe how other adults play. The development of social skills requires baby steps which are all important to gaining these skills and to overall growth. As with the other stages, child care centers are important in developing this type of play and the skills that go along with it. Being around other children will stimulate and develop your child.

  • Parallel Play

    During this stage, your child gets a bit closer (literally) to playing with other kids. Children usually play side-by-side which might give the appearance of no interaction or awareness of one another. But they are still paying attention to, and learning from, each other. This stage serves as an important transition between the more mature types of social play which follow.

  • Associative Play

    Starting from the ages of about 3 or 4, children start to play with one another. They are aware of those around them and begin to interact fully. This is where the skills of problem-solving, conflict resolution and cooperation strongly develop. During activities for this type of play, children trade, share and play with the same toys. But at this stage, there are no set rules or common goals for play.

  • Social/Cooperative Play

    Between the ages of 4 and 6, children fully engage with each other and teamwork is evident. Rather than just being interested in the activity or objects they are involved in, children are also interested in their peers around them. This type of play becomes more organized and we can see certain children participating in certain roles, and they aim to achieve certain goals, purposes, and tasks. Any team sports and games at school are perfect for this stage. The social and group skills and maturity that children have now achieved are built upon the prior types of play. It helps children have a fully enriching and educational child care experience as they play with, and learn from, each other.

As we can see, earlier forms of play involve more individual, independent experiences, and experiments. But gradually children become more social, active and engaged with those around them. Each stage is important and forms the foundations of the stages that follow. To maximize these experiences, qualified teachers facilitate play (and therefore learning) in structured, enriching ways. Children learn best through play and the diverse types of social play must be encouraged and nurtured. This happens best at top quality child care centers which are committed to and experienced in childhood development and which offer highly trained, dedicated teachers.

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