We can all agree that there is nothing better than watching your child at play and having fun, but have you ever stopped to think about HOW they play? Play is very complex, but in a nutshell, play is how children make sense of the world. It is how they test theories, examine, experiment, challenge ideas and create. Children learn by doing. They are scientists, mathematicians, artists, engineers and architects, all rolled into one big engine, with the urge to explore and make sense of their world.
“Children learn through play: by doing, asking questions, interacting with others, devising theories about how things work and then trying them out and by making purposeful use of resources. As they engage in exploration, they begin to develop attitudes and expectations that will continue to influence their learning throughout life”
(Ministry of Education, 2017)
As children grow and develop, so does their play. In fact, there are six main stages of play, and each stage is important for your child's learning and development. The stages of play evolve, and children's play becomes more complex, as they learn the social skills to interact with others. The list below, (information sourced from www.encourageplay.com), describes each stage of play
- UNOCCUPIED PLAY
- SOLITARY PLAY
- ONLOOKER PLAY
- PARALLEL PLAY
- ASSOCIATIVE PLAY
- SOCIAL PLAY
Knowing which stage of play your child is at, is helpful to understand and be able to support their learning and development. Providing them with open ended items to tinker and potter with, will support their play, no matter what stage they are at! That's the beauty of loose parts. There are no limits, they evolve with your child.
As always, it is important to allow children to explore in their own time and at their own pace, as each child is unique and on their own learning journey. It is not a race to see who gets to the next "stage" first.