Playing with your children encourages a variety of skills

Engaging in the four types of play with your children helps them build physical skills, learn to problem-solve, and to regulate emotions.

April 2, 2012 - Author: Elizabeth Gutierrez,

Updated from an original article written by

Sometimes adults have a hard time stepping outside of our day-to-day “grown up” role. This can hinder the way we play with our children and/or allow them to play. Michigan State University Extension reminds us that play is one of the most beneficial parts of a child’s life and helps stimulate physical development, social emotional development, cognitive development and language development.

Physical play is probably the most obvious type of play and the type that is learned first. This type of play allows opportunities for running, jumping, crawling, spinning, climbing, balancing, etc. This type of play contributes to a child’s overall physical health, coordination and eye-hand coordination.

Exploratory play involves a lot of problem solving and exploring and manipulating. Often times when a child is manipulating and problem solving, he/she will use his/her hands, which involves fine motor skills and control of the small muscles in the hands. Through exploration a child can learn that they have control of the outcome or can manipulate the results of an outcome. This will peak their interest to investigate and explore even more.

Social play is something that looks different depending on the toddler’s age. Toddlers engage in a type of play referred to as parallel play. Parallel play is when children play next to or parallel to one another. They don’t interact with one another and often times are not capable of sharing or taking turns and have very little patience. This is very normal for toddlers. As children are closer to preschool age, they become more aware of their peers and interested in what their peers are engaged in. This makes them more motivated to try and become involved in play with others. A child’s language and social skills along with ability to regulate emotions will help determine how they transition from parallel play to more social play.

Symbolic/make-believe play is probably the type of play that is most uncomfortable for adults to engage in. Some parents/adults also feel like creating fantasy and imaginary friends, etc., is a negative thing. Evidence shows the opposite of this. Make-believe play is an opportunity for children to think symbolically and also gives them the opportunity to work things out themselves. Through make-believe play, children can create scenarios and experience how others may feel in various situations and actually become more empathetic and caring as a result.

Play is an opportunity for growth and development in many areas. It is very important to engage in various types of play with your children and to encourage them to participate in the different types of play without you. Step outside of your comfort zone and play with your children!!

Tags: approaches to learning, early childhood development, family, healthy relationships, language and literacy development, managing relationships, msu extension, physical activity, physical development and health, social and emotional development

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