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Play is the most important way for children to learn about the world and therefore play is the main skill a child should have. Through play with other children and with adults, young children learn to interact, solve problems, move freely, integrate sensations and stimuli, understand and express emotions.
In every game a child plays, there is a balance in his favor. The great discoveries that a child makes every day are through play: discover, for example, how it feels to have sand in your hands while building a castle; that some toys float and others do not while bathing; and he also learns to say 'more' when his mom rocks him. Play provides the child with many opportunities to learn and discover and is and has to be the main occupation that children have in childhood.
A child can take what is in his internal world and through play organize it into increasingly complex mental and emotional patterns. The game evolves according to the cognitive development of the child:
- Sensory-motor stage: between 0 and 24 months, functional or exercise play predominates.
- Pre-operational stage: between 24 months and 6 years is characterized by symbolic play.
- Stage of specific operations: between 6 and 12 years the game of rules is more common.
As the child develops a type of game, the previous ones become more complex and perfect every day. The appearance of language accompanies this evolution. the child can put his ideas into words, being able to establish connections between them to fill his play with creativity and imagination.
Babies up to two years of age play games typical of the sensory motor period, which is known as functional or exercise play and where there are three types:
- Games with your own body
Creeping, walking, crawling, or swinging are actions that are considered exercise games. Here the child dominates the space with his movements. Kicking their legs over and over again is an exercise game that babies do when they support them to be changed or while playing with a gym with toys.
- Games with objects
They are typical of the sensory-motor stage and the first two years of life. They consist of repeating the same action over and over again for the same pleasure of obtaining the immediate result: exploring objects and toys by hitting, shaking or throwing them. It will surely be known to you that your baby throws an object over and over again and you have to go get it, right? It is a typical functional game that babies play and enjoy the pleasure of repeating it over and over again, observing what happens and seeing the effect it has on their mother when it does.
- Games with people
Smiling, hiding, appearing, catching, balancing are games that are played between parents and children and are essential to promote social interaction and language.
The functional game becomes more complex as the child grows, achieving new schemes every day that strengthen the previous ones. There are numerous benefits that this type of game brings to developmentAmong the most important are: it favors the development of sensory integration, that is, processing and integrating auditory, tactile, proprioceptive, visual and vestibular information. Baby learns cause-effect concepts, increases understanding of the world around him, and practices hand-eye coordination.
It is typical of the preoperative stage (2 to 6 years) and consists of simulating situations, objects and characters that are not present at the time of the game. Pretend play is also known as symbolic game because it involves the use of symbols.
When we use symbols, we use something to represent something else. In the case of pretend games, children can use one object to represent another, such as pretending that a box is a birthday cake or a sheet is a superhero cape. This kind of symbolic thinking is also necessary for language, since our words are symbols that represent our thoughts and ideas.
The symbolic game develops little by little from simple symbolic actions on the dolls themselves, such as feeding them or making them sleep (20-22 months). Later they include more fictional characters in their roles and the fictional game referring to daily actions decreases: a typical game of this stage is that of the doctor (30-36 months).
From the age of 4 they can plan the game, look for solutions, make whole scripts and adopt roles. Interaction with peers and the acquisition of language allows them to play complex and long fictional games: they show variety in the actions that the characters can perform and in the feelings and thoughts that they may have.
Symbolic play favors the acquisition of language, since children verbalize continuously while they do it, whether they are alone or if they are accompanied. It also encourages creativity, imagination and planning and positively impacts the development of social and emotional skills.
These games are very varied and typical of the period of specific operations (6 and 12 years). They can be given between two people, in a group or in teams. Your space can be the schoolyard, the street, the park, the school or family environment. Examples of these regulated games are traditional games (hide-and-seek, stain, burned), sports (football, basketball, rugby, hockey, tennis, etc.) or board games (memotest, bingo, chess, etc.).
Rules are socializing elements that teach you to win and lose, tolerate frustration, respect turns and rules. Children must learn to consider the opinions and actions of others, cooperate and negotiate. It promotes the development of language, memory, reasoning, attention and reflection.
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