“You be the Mama and I’ll be the Daddy. These are our babies and we’ll put them in the stroller and take them to church. We’ll leave them in the nursery with Mrs. Lori and then we’ll go to church. They need to take a nap. Here is some food. Hey, you be Mrs. Andrea and I’ll be Pastor Chad. Let’s pray…”
Kids are awesome! And I am constantly amazed as I watch my children grow and learn.
One of the main ways they learn is through play. Play is SO important during the preschool years, however it is good for adults to have “play time” as well. 🙂
A main reason why play is so important for young children is because through play they learn to process information and communicate. Their brain is still developing. So in order to make sense of the world, to learn what is real and fantasy, and what works and what doesn’t, they use play.
If you watch your children closely you can watch the stages of play change as they mature. Some kids will start with Unoccupied Play when they stand at the edge of the room and watch everything. Kids then develop into the Solitary Play when they play with toys by themselves. Spectator, or Onlooker, Play is when kids watch other kids and learn how to manipulate the world around them. They then move to Parallel Play which is fun to watch because in day cares or church nurseries you’ll see 3-4 kids all playing the same thing: legos, or babies, or blocks and they won’t ever interact with each other. Then they hit the fun stage of Associate Play when children begin to interact with each other in simple play. The last stage is Co-Operative Play when children work together towards a common goal.
My oldest is moving into Co-Operative Play while his sister is working through the Associative Stage, so at time fireworks and strife take place because of lack of patience with each other. It’s fun to watch!
It is important for parents to understand play because children will play whatever they see and experience. This is why it is not recommended for young children to watch certain types of movies or TV shows. Or to be involved in family strife of any kind. When I taught the 4 year old class in a preschool it was right at the peak of the Power Ranger years. It was awful! The kids kept kicking and fighting with each other because they were acting out what they watched on the TV. We had so many kids hurt. They were “just playing,” but that play had a price to it. And they didn’t understand why they would get in trouble for the behavior because if was OK for the characters on the TV to act like that then wasn’t it OK for them to act like that?
I encourage you to watch your children. What do they do when they play? Do you approve of what they are doing? If not, where is the play coming from? Young kids think whatever they see is real. They don’t understand fantasy even though they play “pretend.” In their mind it is real.
Ask your children questions. Have them explain what they are doing to you and discuss what is real and what is “pretend.” It will help your child to grow and mature into the next stage of play.
Parten’s Stages of Play