It is my belief—one strongly backed by research —that PLAY is the natural, and organic, way young children learn. PLAY addresses all areas of a child’s development and I’d go so far as to say it lays the foundation for a child’s overall success!
Children go through various stages of development in terms of the way in which they PLAY. They grow and mature from:
Unoccupied PLAY—infants basically being entertained by parents and/or observing their environment
Solitary PLAY—children playing on their own, seemingly oblivious to other children playing nearby
Onlooker PLAY—a child may ask questions of other children playing, but there’s no attempt to join in
Parallel PLAY—children playing side-by-side, each doing their own thing, but aware of and paying attention to each other
Associative PLAY-children start interacting with one another; they have similar goals for the play, but no set rules
Cooperative PLAY—typically occurring by the time children reach late preschool to kindergarten age. In this stage children coordinate the play for common goals; often there are set roles—this play can be quite involved. Ideas are shared, negotiation
and compromise practiced!
See, just in the descriptions of the stages of PLAY, how a child’s body and mind grows, naturally, through PLAY!
PLAY may be described as child’s play and implied as simple, but PLAY is anything but simple and very important! PLAY is so important Albert Einstein noted: PLAY is the highest form of research!
How would you define PLAY? Or maybe a better question is: How did you experience PLAY? And how do you want your child to experience it?
PLAY can be divided into two broad categories:
●Structured PLAY, or close-ended PLAY
●Unstructured PLAY, or, the term I prefer: Open-ended PLAY
Structured PLAY includes organized activities; there are rules and often a desired ‘ending’ or winner. Many times, they are adult-led or adult overseen activities.
Open-ended PLAY is child-directed with no specific goals or desired ‘ending’; it’s done for pure enjoyment or interest; allows for children’s ideas to flow from one to another as they become immersed in their imaginations letting their creativity take hold…and then take off!
As parents, YOU are your child’s 1st, and most important, teachers. What materials you decide to give them to play with will contribute to:
● What they learn about themselves;
● What they learn about others; and
● What they learn about the world around them
What you choose for them is important!
Toys can also be divided into two categories: Close-ended and Open-ended.
Puzzles are an example of a close-ended toy. For puzzles to be done correctly, the pieces must go together in specific orientations. Close-ended toys though have benefits. For example, puzzles develop
●Fine Motor Skills and
●Spatial Awareness as well as
But in terms of PLAY-value alone, puzzles are limited.
Blocks are an example of an open-ended toy.
● There are no ‘rules’ to follow
● Can be put together in a variety of ways
● Adding props to blocks gives PLAY a different focus or theme
● Blocks ‘grow’ with your child
Open-ended toys are the ingredients for Open-ended PLAY!
PLAY with Open-ended toys:
● Fosters Imagination
● Enhances Creativity
● Develops Social/Emotional
Intelligence such as Empathy,
Cooperation, Negotiation &
● Expands Cognitive Skills like
Thinking & Brainstorming
● Boosts Self-Confidence, Self-Esteem & Self-Regulation
Open-ended toys are often simple toys, but with a lot of PLAY power! They require effort on the part of children—children are not passive, but active participants in open-ended PLAY—using their imaginations and their creative interpretations to engage in and sustain play. In open-ended PLAY children have the opportunity to engage and develop multiple developmental areas simultaneously.
In a well-balanced PLAY space your kidlet will interact with both open-ended and close-ended toys and materials. What YOU need to guarantee is they’re given the time, freedom and space for open-ended PLAY!
Feel free to contact me if you need assistance in setting up your kiddo’s PLAY space!
Yours in Play!