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DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES of Play (P) in Early Childhood
Mildren Parten (1932) proposed that children progress through SIX social levels of play, each one more complex & requiring more social skills to be able to interact successfully with their peer group.
Normal progression is from solitary >> to comfortable social interaction, as the child grows physically & psychologically
KEEP IN MIND:
Except for the infant, the stages are fluid, & can show up at different ages, depending on the personality & circumstances of each child. — > CHART
1. Unoccupied Behavior
Babies mainly look at anything that catches their eye, including watching adults closely.
If nothing exciting is happening they’ll play with their own body, & later will get on & off chairs, stand around, follow an adult, or sit in one spot & observe. In spite of appearances, this is early play, setting the stage for future play exploration
• Birth-6 months: Babies explore by putting things in their mouth & touching things with hands. They’ll play alone with toys, such as rattles & shakers or banging things with both hands
• 6-12 months: They look at & imitate adults, copy their actions – such as dropping things. Continue playing with toys alone, explore things with mouth & hands. Like simple games (peek-a-boo….)
2. Onlooker Behavior
This is when children definitely spend most of their time watching others at play rather than other exciting things in the environment. They’ll stay near enough to maybe talk to other players, ask questions or give suggestions, but not participate.
Toddlers learn how to act when they’re ready to join in the fun. Watching the big kids play is a great way to learn the politics of the playground (no stealing shovels!)
• 12-18 months: They start playing with grown-ups & notice other children. Learn through trial & error, such as banging 2 objects & finding out the sounds they make. Repeat actions they enjoyed. Play & ‘talk’ alone.
> 2 & 3 yr olds in solitary play are learning how to keep themselves entertained, eventually setting the path for being self-sufficient
3. Solitary Play
When children play independently, with toys that are different from those used by others who are within speaking distance. They make no effort to get closer, content to pursue their own activity without referring to what anyone else is doing. They’re still too self-oriented, don’t yet have much of a vocabulary, or may be shy, & are too interested in exploring the world around them to play socially
• 1.5 – 2 yrs old : Like to play with adults as well as alone.
Look at other children playing but don’t join in. Copy them and adults. Continue to explore things with mouth, and learn by trial and error. Like repetitive actions, such as putting objects in and out of boxes, and scribbling on many pages
4. Parallel P
This is when children play independently but alongside other kids, with toys that are like the others but used in their own style, and don’t try to influence or modify what nearby children are doing.
They are in fact learning quite a bit from each other, because even though they don’t seem to be paying attention, they often mimic the other’s behavior. It’s an important bridge to later stages of play
• 1.5 – 2.5 yrs old: They show interest in what’s happening by pointing or squealing, but may prefer to do it from the safety of a caregiver’s lap
• 2.5 – 3 yrs old : They start to play near other children, & while not acknowledging each other, are happy to play separately side by side. They continue copying them & adults.
Begin to show some reasoning skills, & using symbols in play (a stick becomes a sword). Much of the play is ‘imaginative’ (scolding toys). Still learning by trial and error.
NEXT: Childhood Play STAGES (Part 2)