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10 Things To Know About Children's Free-Time Play

Let's be real.. they're the real professionals of play.

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By Deisy Maldonado HDFS 301

1. It's all about ME!

First, let’s start by saying that children at 2 years of age begin with nonsocial activity, which is unoccupied, onlooker behavior, and solitary play. This is because they are yet not capable of understanding the thoughts and feelings of others (Berk, 372).

2. But…it doesn't take long for them to interact with their peers.

They shift from nonsocial activity to parallel play, where a child plays near other children with similar materials but does not try to influence their behavior. They also start engaging on cooperative play, in which children orient toward a common goal (Berk, 372).

3. This might seem very simple but children are actually very strategic about how they engage in play…

Preschoolers seem to use parallel play as a way station. In order to successfully join the ongoing play of peers, they often first engage in parallel play nearby, easing into the group activities. This strategy increases the likelihood of being accepted. (Berk, 373).

4. But don’t get confuse…preschoolers do not stop engaging in nonsocial activity.

Although nonsocial activity declines with age, it is still the most frequent form among 3 to 4 year olds and even among Kindergartners. They often transition from onlooker to parallel to cooperative play and back again. Both solitary and parallel play remain fairly stable from 3 to 6 years. (Berk, 373).

5. Over time, make-believe play becomes increasingly detached from the real-life conditions.

When children first engage in make-believe play, usually before the age of 2, they use only realistic objects--- a toy telephone to talk into or a cup to drink from. Their earliest pretend acts usually imitate adults’ actions and are no yet flexible (Berk, 319).

6. Their imagination is just beginning...

At first, make-believe is directed toward the self. Soon, children begin to direct pretend actions toward objects. Children are realizing that agents and recipients of pretend actions can be independent of themselves (Berk, 319).

7. Imagination is now in full force, children begin to engage in sociodramatic play.

This type of play includes more complex combinations of schemes. Sociodramatic play, the make-believe with others increases rapidly in complexity during early childhood (Berk, 319).

8. Imaginary friends are actually beneficial for children!

Between 25 and 45 percent of preschoolers spend much time in solitary make-believe, creating imaginary companions. Although imaginary friends were once viewed as a sign of maladjustment, research challenges this assumption. Children who have an invisible playmate typically treat it with care and affection and say it offers caring, and good company, just as their real friendships do. In addition, children who engage in this are advanced in understanding others' viewpoints and emotions, and are more sociable with peers (Berk, 320).

9. Play not only reflects but also contributes to children's cognitive and social skills.

This picture might seem all fun and games, but in reality the children are interacting, cooperating, and building their language, social, cognitive, and even emotional skills! Many studies reveal that make-believe strengthens attention, memory, logical reasoning, language and literacy, imagination, creativity, and the ability to regulate one's own emotions and behaviors, and take another's perspective (Berk, 319).The list is endless!

10. Wait, one last benefit of free-time play.

During play, preschoolers spend much time negotiating roles and rules. To create and manage complex plots, they must resolve their disputes through negotiation and compromise. They are expanding capacity to consider others' attitudes and ideas (Berk, 374).

Cheers to free-time play!

P.S. NEVER SAY "NO" TO A CUP OF TEA!

For additional information about children's free-time play and how to reinforce make-believe play please visit the following links:

http://www.mcm.org/uploads/MCMResearchSummary.pdf

http://www.toolsofthemind.org/parents/make-believe-play/

http://www.hanen.org/Helpful-Info/Articles/The-Land-of-Make-Believe.aspx

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