The child goes through changing patterns of play, which vary according to his interests and ability to interact with other children. Let us now examine five stages of play in the preschool years, this is:
1. Solitary Play
During infancy, the child plays alone with his hair, hands, and toes and with toys or with objects around him such as rattles, mobiles, and his feeding bottles. He is not interested in playing with others. This type of play is termed ‘Solitary play’.
2. Onlooker Behaviour
Children spend most of their time watching others. They make comments on the play of others but do not attempt to join.
3. Parallel Play
After infancy, the beginning of parallel play is observable when the child plays side by side with other children although each child is busy playing with his toys, with no intentional sharing or interaction.
Often they use the same toys near others, yet in an independent way. At this stage, the conversation is restricted to each child talking to himself and vocalizing his actions.
Although there is little or no direct interaction, the children are aware of one another’s presence and enjoy companionship.
4. Associated Play
Children can begin to interact with others. They can share, borrow, and lend play toys, play may be unorganized but there is no assignment of activities or roles.
5. Cooperative Play
Parallel play may also lead to cooperative play, which involves direct interaction in the form of sharing play material, playing games together, and holding conversations with each other.
The child enjoys the companionship of his peers and he is at the stage where he is developing the capacity to accept, understand and respond to the ideas and actions of others.
This pattern of play is seen among children between two to five years of age. They also engage in socio-dramatic play where they act out fantasies either individually or in groups.
The playing group is usually goal-oriented. The beginning of a sense of competition can also be seen at this age but it is also the time when special friends are made and one-to-one relationships are established.
Some Implications of Play for Early Childhood Education (E.C.E)
The process of learning is facilitated by the child’s active participation in the process of manipulating and interacting with objects and socializing with others.
Play materials should be adequate and well-designed to help children acquire important concepts of the world around them.
Staff selected for a pre-school program should be knowledgeable about the value of play and how to supervise play activities.
In summary, play is the most natural activity for a child to engage in, therefore, preschool programs whthatupport play could facilitate the achievement of preschool learning goals.
Play is the natural, spontaneous, voluntary and intrinsically motivated, and creative activity in which a child engages and learns something in the process.
Play is as important to a baby as to an older child. There are different stages of play in the preschool years. The process of learning is facilitated by the child’s active participation in the process.
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