The evolution of play and how to intervene
During early childhood, different types of play are an important part of daily life. Playing helps children learn naturally as they explore and experiment through trial and error. Through play, children will also learn to communicate and share with others, manage conflicts, negotiate...
Through various developmental stages, the way children play will also evolve. Knowledge of these developmental stages is important if you wish to adequately intervene and adapt your daycare environment and material. Here are the main stages as well as positive intervention methods for each one.
Solitary play is common among children between the ages of 0 to 1 year old up to 18 months. Children of this age group enjoy playing alone. They demonstrate no interest in reaching out to others. They appreciate having an adult nearby, but won't necessarily share their game or toy with him/her.
Things to do/know:
- Be sure to offer enough material for all the children in your group. Ideally, you should have several of each toy or item.
- Many conflicts will arise due to one child taking a toy away from another child. Sharing is impossible at this stage.
- Group activities are also impossible.
- Try to enjoy one-on-one games and activities with each child.
Parallel play is characteristic between the ages of 18 months and 2 years. At this age, children will enjoy the same activity as the child next to them, without interacting with him/her. Children will not communicate in any way. They may give the impression they are enjoying a group activity, but without interaction.
Between the ages of 2 and 3 years old, parallel play continues to be present. However, verbal exchanges will be more and more common among children. Focus on simple group activities and games containing simple rules.
Things to do/know:
- At this stage, continue to offer many identical toys and games. Conflicts among children linked to sharing are still common. Having a sufficient quantity of material will help limit problems. For example, having three or four identical trucks may help.
- Children's attention span is limited to 5-10 minutes.
- Children aren't quite read for group activities. Continue to focus on one-on-one activities with each child.
- For short periods, you can invite your entire group to focus on a single activity (discussion period, story, craft, etc.). However, do not expect children to interact.
Group play becomes possible between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. Parallel play is then a thing of the past. As an early childhood educator, you should focus on group animations and games. Children will love participating.
Around 3 years old, children's imaginary world is very important. This is when "pretend play" appears. Slowly, as children near the age of 4 years old, cooperative play will become possible and you will see little ones collaborate for common goals more and more.
Things to do/know:
- Group animations are now possible and children enjoy this type of activity.
- Activities can now last more than 15 minutes. Children's attention is much more sustained.
- Children appreciate all types of games and activities (crafts, board games, outdoor play, cooperative games, workshops, etc.).
- Offer a wide range of activities to provide children with the opportunity to develop individual interests.
- Games can have more and more complex rules and activities can involve many different steps and stages. Children may need your help and support at times, but in general, they can successfully organize themselves within an activity (4-5 years old) on their own.
As is always the case with developmental stages, some children will reach each stage at different ages. Every child develops at his/her own pace and rhythm. However, if a child seems to remain at a specific stage "too long", this could signal a problem. Pay close attention to his/her general development and speak to the child's parents if you continue to have concerns.
Have fun playing with the children in your group!
Maude Dube, Specialized educator