I have posted recently about different types of play, including imaginative, physical, constructive and creative play. Today I want to talk about children who have a distinct preference for one type of play, and question – should we move them towards new discoveries in their play?
For example, Immy has a preference for imaginative play. To her, anything and everything is a ‘person,’ a character with a personality – a toy car, a stick, a block, an animal figurine, a soft toy – they all come alive and have conversations and adventures with each other.
And I don’t have a problem with this. There are definitely times when she does other things, like putting together a puzzle or a building a block tower or playing with playdough, but over and over again she comes back to imaginative play.
I was however recently reminded of a quote which I wrote down at a Reggio Emilia conference I was privileged to attend back in 2007;
“The ‘educator’ has a responsibility to move the child from what is comfortable to new areas of investigation. A child can’t stay in the block corner forever.”
(And in my work as an Early Childhood Teacher, I have certainly seen children who LOVE to spend their time in the block corner!)
Being aware of the different types of play allows parents and educators to extend a child’s play beyond what they already know. For example, for a child who loves imaginative play and the joy of dressing up as a pirate everyday, setting up an obstacle course outside can engage them in outdoor, physical play – as a pirate they can walk along a ‘plank’ cut from cardboard, creep along on their bellies through the grass whilst hiding from other dastardly pirates, climb up onto the ‘pirate ship’ trampoline, or dig in the sandpit for buried treasure. This activity continues to engage their imagination but extends their play beyond dressing up, introducing a number of fun physical play elements.
I think the key to extending children’s play is starting where they are at and then adding new components incorporating other types of play. For my imaginative player, we might add creative elements like building a playground for the little people from recycled objects, or add a physical component by taking the soft toys on an adventure outdoors. Introducing a range of new playful elements certainly enriches and extends the child’s play (and therefore learning) experiences. And that surely is a good thing.
What type of play does your child most enjoy?