Types of Play

Types of Play

The following terms are frequently used to describe types of play. All are important in learning and development. This book focuses on how to use, set up, and facilitate these types of play in a home setting.

Structured play is an activity that has a set of rules and a set outcome that is predetermined.

A puzzle, matching game, or board game are examples of structured play. Another is giving a child a craft with a set outcome, such as making a paper snowman. This art activity is guided by a parent or caregiver. A child is provided a paper cutout of the body of a snowman, with buttons for eyes, a hat, or other accessories (stick for a broom, small orange triangles for a nose, and so forth). A sample snowman is provided as a model. The child is encouraged to follow the sample with the materials provided and can ask for help when it is needed.

Free play is the time during the day when a child can play at their leisure and freely explore the toys, games, and activities set out and available to them, undirected by an adult.

Unstructured play is when a child is provided with toys or materials, usually manipulatives or open-ended toys, to use or do whatever they choose safely. Examples would be moon sand for molding or blocks for building. This is also sometimes called “free play,” interchangeably.

SOLITARY OR INDEPENDENT PLAY Even if other children are in the same room, many children just prefer to play by themselves. How a child plays with other children will change as he or she grows. It is normal behavior for a child to play alone.

PARALLEL PLAY (between the ages of one and three) is when a child will stand near or alongside another child but not engage in play with that child. The child will simply stand nearby, play with his or her toy, and observe what the other child, is doing at the same time.

ASSOCIATIVE PLAY (between the ages of three and four) is when a child will stand next to another child and sometimes interact (want the other child’s car or make a comment) but will continue to play independently and observe what the other child is doing.

COOPERATIVE PLAY (age four and older) is when children start to play together. Two children may pretend to be monster trucks in a monster truck show, they may build towers and crash their cars into each other’s towers, or they may work together to build a tower to knock down.

The paperback version of Create a Home of Learning is available at Amazon, your favorite bookseller or jodidee.com

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