The game is essential in the lives of children. Through the game, the little one explores the world and understands it, in addition to developing their interests and, of course, having fun. However, as the child grows, the game changes, acquires more nuances and becomes more complex. Therefore, reference can be made to different types of games that are specific to each stage of child development.
The stages of children’s play
▪ Unemployed game (0-12 months)
This game is characteristic of babies and can be understood as a preparation for the game itself. In practice, the child plays to make seemingly random movements and gestures without any specific objective. In fact, these movements are attempts to learn to move within their environment.
▪ Solo game (0-2 years)
It is an independent game since the child plays only with his toys, which is mainly due to the fact that his social, cognitive and physical abilities are still very limited. However, this type of game is very important because it allows you to think, explore and create. When a child plays alone, he learns to concentrate, to think for himself, comes up with creative ideas and begins to regulate his emotions.
Through the game alone the child is preparing to interact with his peers. In fact, it is likely that at the end of the 2 years he will start playing with an imaginary partner, which will help him develop the language. Therefore, solo play is really a bridge to social play.
In this stage of children’s play, each new object or situation represents a valuable learning experience. The child will perform simple and repetitive activities that for adults can be boring but that gives them great satisfaction, such as filling a bucket of sand and then pouring it or hitting wooden blocks together.
▪ Game as a spectator (18 months-2 ½ years)
In this type of game, the child spends a lot of time watching other little ones play. You do not participate directly in the game, although you can ask them questions to better understand what they are doing. It usually arises around 2 years, which is when the child begins to pay more attention to the other children. In this activity, the little one learns through observation, is interested in what the other children do but is not yet ready to join the game. In fact, this type of game takes place simultaneously with the game alone.
▪ Parallel play (2½-3 years)
Children play independently, side by side. They can use similar or different toys, but have not yet developed the skills needed to play together. Parallel play helps them master basic skills to regulate their behavior with their peers and get along with them, in addition to stimulating autonomous work.
This type of game is completely normal and is the last step for the child to interact with their peers. In fact, although it seems that they are playing independently, they are actually looking at each other and already enjoy the closeness of the other, but they are not yet able to interact without the intervention of an adult.
▪ Associative game (3-4 years)
This type of game involves a group of children with similar goals. They will play with other children who use the same toys and even interact with each other, but they will not play precisely with them. In the associative game rules are not established and, although everyone wants to play with the same toys and exchange them, there is no formal organization. In practice, it is a solo game with the assistance and cooperation of other children, which is because they are not yet ready to participate in a group itself. In fact, communication is usually limited to borrowing toys and little else. However, more mature children are already starting to emerge as leaders.
▪ Collaborative game (4-5 + years)
In this type of game, typical of preschool age, children are already able to play in groups and work together. In the game there is a general objective, there is a leader and everyone intervenes more or less actively. It can be competitive games or role plays that simulate the lives of adults. Entering the collaborative game means that children are already able to establish and follow certain rules that guarantee the success of the activity.
Last but not least, it is worth clarifying that these stages of children’s play are not exclusive. For example, a 4-year-old child will enjoy playing with his friends as well as the solo game, which does not disappear but is complemented by other types of interactions.