Your cart is empty

🎁Free UK shipping on orders over £30🎁
Day 26 - Symbolic Play

Day 26 - Symbolic Play

Alexis Ralphs Sep 04 • 7 min read

You've probably heard that play is critical for language development. But why is that? Is it simply that play gives children the opportunity to speak and to interact with others? Partly, but it goes deeper than that.

Words are symbols. They stand in for the real thing. So when I say 'car', I'm using the word as a label. I'm not presenting you with the actual object. This is abstract thought, and it's key to language development.

Toddlers like to eat pretend food using a real spoon, or to feed their toys. The props they use for their play have to be real or realistic. But as children get older, they start to use objects that bear little resemblance to the thing they're trying to represent. A block becomes a mobile phone or the king's treasure. It is now a symbol.

This explains one of the criticisms of the Montessori approach - real tasks are favoured over pretend ones. The home corner is never turned into the Three Bears' house or a hotel. So opportunities for symbolic play are limited.

By the time children reach preschool, they are happy to give toys voices of their own and create worlds for them. By four or five, they'll start to role-play, to take on imaginary personas. They, themselves, have become the symbol.

Make room for symbolic play from the very start. There will be days when you're too busy (or in my case, too grumpy!) to take part in yet another teddy bears' picnic, but it's worth taking the time whenever you can. Symbolic play is one of the most important skills your child can develop.

Here's the rest of the series:


Day 1 - Theories of Development

Day 2 - Stages of Play

Day 3 - Play is Multisensory

Day 4 - Gender-Neutral Toys

Day 5 - The Zone of Proximal Development

Day 6 - Heuristic Play

Day 7 - Spot the Difference

Day 8 - Sorting

Day 9 - Schemas

Day 10 - Ask good questions

Day 11 - Conservation

Day 12 - Seriation

Day 13 - Observation

Day 14 - Set a good example

Day 15 - Fewer toys = more focus

Day 16 - The Hundred Languages of Children

Day 17 - Plan-do-review

Day 18 - Practical life

Day 19 - Free-flow play

Day 20 - Executive functions

Day 21 - Spaced repetition

Day 22 - Independent play

Day 23 - Project-based Learning

Day 24 - The Environment As The Third Teacher

Day 25 - Start With The Child

Day 26 - Symbolic Play

Day 27 - Learning To Write

Day 28 - Blocks: the indispensable toy

Day 29 - Outdoor Learning

Day 30 - Play

Have your say

Keep Learning

Related products