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the development of play

From Stacking Blocks to Tea Parties: The Development of Play

At each stage of our lives we have certain responsibilities; as adults we work, as highschoolers we went to school, as kids we played. Playing is a fundamental skill for children, and often acts as an avenue for other skills to develop. While playing, kids explore the world; they learn how things work, they arethe development of play exposed to new vocabulary and they learn to interact with other kids.

Play mirrors language development. As a child ages, their language skills develop, progressing from one word utterances to 3 – 4 word phrases and ultimately reaching conversational level skills. Along with this improvement and development of language abilities, a child’s play skills will also progress through a developmental hierarchy. Therefore, just as there are developmental steps with language development, there are certain play milestones that a child will progress through.

Use the table below as a reference to determine appropriate play skills for your own child for his or her age.

The Development of Play:

AgePlay Skills
0-6 Months– Demonstrates reaching and banging behaviors for toys- Starts to momentarily look at items and smile in a mirror

– Rattles and Tummy Time mats are very popular at this age

6-12 Months– Begins to participate in adult-led routine games(e.g., Peek-a-boo).

Functional play skills are emerging at this age (i.e., playing with a toy as it is meant to be used). Examples of functional play are pushing a car or stirring with a spoon.

– Demonstrates smiling and laughing during games

 

12-18 Months– Consistently demonstrates functional use of toys- Emerging symbolic play skills were be observed at this age (i.e., the use of an object to represent something else). For example, pretending a banana is a telephone or pretending to brush a doll’s hair with an imaginary brush

– A child will also ask for help from a caregiver or adult if his or her toy is not working

 

18-24 Months– Pretend/symbolic play will become more advanced with the use of multiple toys in one play situation (e.g., playing kitchen or house)- There is much more manipulation of toys at this age – grouping of like items and assembling a complex situation

– Children will also become more independent in putting toys away or repairing broken pieces

 

24-30 Months– At this age children will begin to demonstrate parallel play. In other words, children will engage in the same play activity with the absence of interacting with each other- Although at this age, children are not yet interacting together directly, they will begin to verbalize more around children as well as share toys with other peers

 

30-36 Months– Children at this age are becoming expert playmates – long play sequences will be carried out. Typically, children will begin by playing out familiar routines, such as a parent’s dinner routine. As children age, new endings to play sequences will emerge- Dolls or other play animals may become active participants in a play sequence.

 

Rossetti, L. (2006). The Rossetti Infant-Toddler Language Scale. Linguisystems, Inc.

Encourage your child to explore and interact with new toys. Try sabotaging a play sequence (e.g., putting a block on your head rather than on the floor) to add extra fun or laughs to an afternoon. While playing with your child, also encourage and add language to the situation. You can do this by asking the child, “What should the horse do next?” or even just narrating what you are doing, e.g., “First I’m going to stir my pot, then…”.

Playing is meant to be fun and enjoyable for parents and their kids. Enjoy the warm weather, encourage language and play development and go outside to play!

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!