The 7 Types of Play and the Role of the Parent in Play-Based Learning

In my previous blog, “Come Play with Me,” we explored the concept and importance of play-based learning and the different stages of play that children experience as they develop. We now know that play is critical to children’s early development and key to supporting their emergent literacy skills. We also know that children will move through a variety of stages in their own unique way. These stages form a continuum of growth and development and, although there are age guidelines for each stage, children will move through this continuum at their own pace. Only when they have successfully experienced one stage will they move to the next.

THE 7 TYPES OF PLAY

Think back to when you were children yourselves. What were some of your favourite ways to play? Did you enjoy creating art? Perhaps you preferred tag or hide and seek. Maybe you were more interested in building towers and constructing Lego towns. Did you gravitate towards board games, or prefer getting messy while experimenting in the kitchen?

Regardless of which type of play you enjoyed the most, you would have naturally explored all 7 types of play at one time or another. Each type of play is very similar to the different learning styles and, although they will explore them all, children will choose one strong style of learning and one type of preferred play. Knowing how your children learn best, and which type of play they prefer, allows you to plan activities that best suit your children’s needs.

Physical Play

  • Often described as rough and tumble play
  • Children develop their gross and fine motor skills
  • Children develop coordination, body control, body awareness, sense of self, and risk taking and impulse control
  • Children who prefer physical play often have a strong understanding of what their body is capable of

Language Play

  • Children will rhyme, sing, tell stories, and make up songs
  • They will explore language by making up new words, phrases, or sounds
  • Children will turn anything into a pencil and paper, i.e. writing letters in the sand using a stick
  • Children who enjoy language play will often have strong early reading and writing skills

Exploratory Play

  • This type of play is all about exploring
  • Children will be learning how to learn and developing a curiosity and love of learning
  • Children will explore by using all of their senses, testing ideas and asking many questions
  • Children who prefer exploratory play are often lifelong learners

Constructive Play

  • This type of play involves building, taking things apart, and putting them back together
  • Children use blocks, clay, playdough, tinker trays, loose parts, anything they can get their hands on
  • This type of play supports many skills: numeracy, trial and error, planning, self-expression, hand-eye coordination, and more
  • Children who gravitate towards this type of play are often referred to as “future engineers”

Fantasy Play

  • In fantasy play, children imagine and explore
  • This is the type of play where children will be anything but themselves
  • They create their own characters and stories and act them out
  • Children explore all kinds of possibilities and experiences
  • Children who prefer fantasy play often have very strong comprehension and predictability skills

Social Play

  • Children play together with others
  • All the children work towards a common goal
  • They will be developing their skills in team work, problem solving, taking turns, and following rules
  • Children learn the manners associated with play and competition
  • Children who primarily enjoy social play often work well with others and have problem solving skills

Expressive Play

  • These children are your artists, musicians, or poets
  • They enjoy expressing their feelings, thoughts, and personalities through art, music and writing
  • Children display their feelings and what they know in a visual way
  • Children who enjoy expressive play are incredibly creative and natural problem solvers

THE PARENT’S ROLE IN SUPPORTING PLAY-BASED LEARNING

We know that play is our children’s job. Through play they develop in all ways. But what is our role as parents? How can we support our children’s development through play?

Be Patient

Children need to explore activities in their own way. Some children explore at great length while others move very quickly from activity to activity. Allow your children the time they need to experience all activities in the way they choose.

Explore all Types of Play

Similar to learning styles, children naturally gravitate towards one type of play; however, it is important that they are exposed to all types of play. As parents, we can support this by offering our children a variety of activities, experiences, and methods of play. Share with them your favourite ways to play!

Let Them Take the Lead

Let your children guide the direction of their play. Sit back and follow their lead. Let your children show you how they want to do the activity or play the game. Give them a turn at being the leader and then you take a turn to guide their play in a new direction!!

Throw Out the Rule Book

There is no right or wrong way to play. Toss out the rule book and explore new ways to do things. This is often one of the hardest things for us to do as adults. We each have our own way of doing something and often impose this on our children. However, play follows no rules and the best learning comes from the ability to explore things in new ways.

Model, Model, Model

Show your children that play is a lifelong skill that does not have an expiry date. Even as adults we still play. Whether you are part of a sports team, enjoy doing puzzles, love playing Candy Crush, or enjoy making a mess in the kitchen, your children will see you having fun and that will influence them to do the same!

PLAY!!

You are your child’s first and best teacher, so naturally you are their best playmate! Be silly, have fun, be open to doing things their way, and make memories together!

For more information on our Literacy Links workshop “Come Play with Me” or any of our other early literacy workshops, please contact the Centre for Family Literacy: email info@famlit.ca or phone 780-421-7323.

 

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2 thoughts on “The 7 Types of Play and the Role of the Parent in Play-Based Learning

  1. Thank you for all the important work you do. So lucky to have programs like this for parents to learn how to help their kids and have fun at the same time.

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