The six stages of play

A child playing alone with blocks

Does your child like to play alone? Or do they enjoy engaging with others? The answer has as much to do with age as with personality type. One influential idea is that as children mature they progress through stages of play. The theory was originally proposed by Mildred Parten, an American researcher. What are the …

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Keep it simple

Do you ever find yourself scouring the internet, searching for ways to fill an afternoon? Did any of it work? Google ‘activities for toddlers’ and here’s what you’ll get: You spend hours finding the resources, buying just the right-sized tray from IKEA, making it look beautiful and then presenting it to your toddler. Cue squeals …

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Free-flow play

A child at play

How much of your child’s playtime do you control? Do you spend lots of time together, making collages or working on interesting projects? Or does your child come and go as she pleases? Free-flow play is something you’ll encounter in many nurseries and is considered good practice. But it’s hard to get right. The idea …

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Independent Play

A child playing independently

As a child, you remember sitting for hours, making your own fun, without the constant supervision or attention of your parents. You recall a sense of deep absorption in your games and how powerful and vivid your imagination had been during these hours spent happily at home or in the garden. But your own children …

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Heuristic play

Here is a toddler and here is a cardboard box. Curious, the little boy crawls inside. He peers out, like a fox from his den, pleased with his work. He tugs at one of the flaps. Now you see me, now you don’t. It’s a discovery that amuses him greatly and he repeats the action …

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Games with rules

Games with rules are the third of the four types of play outlined by Sara Smilansky, a developmental psychologist who studied how play develops in young children. The rest of the series is here: What are games with rules? When you think of games with rules, what comes to mind? Cricket? Snakes and Ladders? These …

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Solitary play

A child playing alone

When you notice your child deeply engrossed in her own world, playing on her own, you’re witnessing the magic of solitary play. Far from being an indicator of loneliness or exclusion, solitary play is a critical stage in your child’s developmental journey, filled with self-discovery, imagination, and creativity. The six stages of play Mildred Parten …

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