Encouraging play supports every aspect of a child’s growth and development, from baby to adult; even adults love to play when they allow themselves the freedom to do so! So we could say play plays an important role in life from birth to death! Poet Pablo Neruda once wrote,
“A child who does not play is not a child, but the man who doesn’t play has lost forever the child who lived in him and who he will miss terribly.”
Play helps to build new language, physical, social, emotional and cognitive skills. Different stages and types of play have different roles in child development.
Stages of Play
From birth, babies soon begin to move their body with no purpose other than it being the first steps of discovery of their own body and what they can do. This is called Unoccupied Play, as the child isn’t consciously engaged in play, but is completely free to think, move and imagine.
Soon children move onto Solitary Play, when they play alone when they learn to be comfortable by themselves. Nature is a great provider of solitary play, as children can discover and explore independently. Dens like the Teepee provide a solitary place where they can play quietly.
Next, they start to develop into Parallel Play, when children play alongside each other, rather than with each other. They may play the same game, but do not engage with another child, as they are still learning how to relate to others appropriately. A Sand Pit is a good place for children to play alongside each other, and they can start to interact naturally.
Children will then start to copy each other in Imitative Play, and then start to make Social Bids by looking at each other, gesturing or using words to communicate. A Water Tray is a great place for children to start to interact and start to talk within their play.
Finally, toddlers will develop the skills to engage in Cooperative Play; there are no age rules for play development, children will all develop at their own speed, at their own rate. A Playtime Garage provides an ideal place for children to develop cooperative skills.
Types of Play
But play doesn’t stop there! There are 16 different types of play, that they can engage in, enabling them to discover and learn about the world around them, learning skills that will set them in good stead on their journey to become well-adjusted people in their future lives.
Symbolic Play: when a child uses an object to symbolise a person or another object. The Small World Table and Mud Kitchen are both useful places for children to play with unlimited objects in the outdoors. This allows children to develop control and increased understanding without feeling out of depth.
Rough and Tumble Play: physical contact play, more to do with developing physical awareness, than fighting anyone. Uses up energy and allows children to learn to gauge their own strength, discover physical flexibility without getting hurt. A good safety surfacing like naturally coloured Resin Bound Rubber Bark or colourful, vibrant Wet Pour facilitates children engaging safely in physical play.
Communication Play: when children use language to play, through singing, dancing, miming, acting, skipping games and group ball games. The Promise Stage and Storyteller’s Chair with Amphitheatre Seating both create the perfect setting for children to develop confidence in performing, telling stories or reciting poems and rhymes.
Socio-dramatic Play: when children re-enact real or potential scenarios from their own lives. The Playtime Kitchen and Playtime Shop provide a fun setting for children to act out experiences for their everyday lives.
Dramatic Play: when children act out scenarios that they’ve not directly been involved in, like a wedding, a TV show or being a zookeeper or lifeboat person. The Crawl Through Locomotive complete with All Seasons Carriages or the Jumbo Jet create the perfect setting for children to engage in dramatic play.
Social Play: when children learn about the rules of social engagement and interaction. The perfect place to teach rules in a purposeful environment would be a MUGA (Multi-Use Games Area) complete with a Multi-Ball Target Wall, Target Panel or Ball Shoot. A simple Goal will enable children to develop their own games and create relevant and workable rules.
Deep Play: when children develop risk-taking during play. They develop resilience, determination and an ability to assess risks and to understand their own limits, as well as giving them challenges to stretch their limits. Treetops Climbing Towers, Adventure Trails and Climbing Frames all offer children physical and mental challenge and provide risk-taking scenarios. The Little Movers Range enables younger children to face a new physical challenge and develop resilience, determination and improve balance, agility and body strength.
Creative Play: when children are free to design, explore, try out new ideas and use their imagination through using tools, props, different materials and equipment.
Exploratory Play: learning through touching, handling, throwing, banging or moving objects. The Construction Station, Post Mounted Rainbow Chimes, Tubano Drums and Sensory Texture Panel all stimulate the senses and allow children to explore the world around them.
Fantasy Play: when children let their imaginations run wild and they use their imaginations to become something usually unachievable: the tallest giant or the smallest fairy! The Space Tower, Beacon Quad Tower, Clipper Play Ship, Jungle Play Den and Buddy Sub all provide the perfect setting to set children’s imaginations running free!
Imaginative Play: when conventional rules are ignored and children play by pretending to be an animal, an object or a plant etc or play by reacting to an imaginary friend. The Jungle Tower and Atlantis Tower and colourful Mushroom Seats all help to stimulate the imagination.
Mastery Play: when children take to learn about cause and effect and take control of the physical elements of their environment: The Sand Chute, Water Wall, Niagara Water Tray, River Rapids, Mud Kitchen and fun Den Posts all allow children to explore natural elements and take them on a journey of discovery.
Object Play: when children use infinite and interesting sequences of hand-eye movements: The innovative Poly Paint Station and versatile Giant Chalk Board and White Board enable children to enjoy developing their motor skills freely outdoors.
Role Play: when children explore ways of being, but not necessarily in a social situation, i.e. pretending to answer a phone, drive a car or sail a ship. The Driving Test Panel and Rotating Airlock both promote taking on an imaginary role.
Recapitulative Play: when children explore ancestry, history, rituals, stories, fire and darkness etc through play. The beautiful Story Teller’s Chair, curved Amphitheatre Seating and fun Seating Cubes all create a magical, atmospheric setting for stories to be retold and history to be re-enacted and explored. Forest School and outdoor learning offer the perfect chance to gather together around a fire when children can cook, tell stories and share life’s tales as a group.
Locomotor Play: when children play for movement’s sake, making movements in any direction. Colourful, fun Playground Markings like the Adventure Trail, Complete Exercise Course and Copy Me all promote multi-directional, multi-level movement through active play.
So whatever your children’s stage of play, or whichever type of play you’d like to enhance, our experienced Schoolscapes team can advise and support you from outset to completion. We can install exciting products that will enhance your outdoor play space, making your outside area a pleasurable haven, enabling children to maximise their physical, social, emotional, language and cognitive development through play.