Play and Learning

Imaginative play usually takes place after the age of two. Children at this age can start to relate to things they have done e.g. if they have been on a bus, things they have seen e.g. a elephant at a zoo, or things they have experienced such as a visit to the doctors and they then incorporate these into their play.

During this type of play children sometimes use props to aid their play. This type of play can be described as symbolic play. These props are used to symbolise something different to what the object actually represents, for example a child using a chair and pretending it’s a cave, or that a bed is a pirate ship. Children can turn any object into anything they want by using their imagination to further their play.

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When on placement child A who is 19 months old was playing with a pram, but when asked what he was doing he told the early years worker he was doing the hovering. He was imagining that the pram was in fact a vacuum cleaner. This may have been because earlier in the day he witnessed some of the younger children being pushed to sleep in their push chairs, and after lunch he also watched the early year’s worker vacuuming the eating area. In my opinion he has sat and watched these two activities take place and he has connected the pushing backwards and forwards movement between the two. This child used their cognitive skills to make the connection between the two different activities.

Children can also pretend to be other things themselves such as pretending to be a living thing such as a cat, a dog, a crocodile or someone they know, like their grandmother. Children can also pretend to be objects such as a table, a boat or a see-saw. This play is also known as fantasy play.

Imaginative play can help to develop cognitive skills. Good imagination helps with story writing which will be good when they child attends a school setting. It will help to develop the child’s reading and writing ability for example writing poems can become a very imaginative task and children who have good imaginations and are imaginative in their play will often mature into imaginative writers.

Imaginative play can improve art skills and craft work. If a child is given as piece of paper or a lump of clay and is told to produce something imaginative and original it is a much easier task for a child with a good imagination to complete the task as they can use it and incorporate it into their work, where as a child with limited imagination may find it difficult to come up with ideas for the task.

When a child is acting as an object, animal or person it could help co-ordination skills which may benefit the child when participating in physical education at school.

For example in pre-school gymnastics the children were given a theme for the session, on this occasion the theme was in ‘In the garden’ and child B was pretending to be a caterpillar and was trying to mimic the way they walk. She did this by getting into front support position then walking her feet to meet her hands then walking her hands forward until she was in front support position and she repeated this many times. This activity will have helped develop her fine motor skills as she is using her fingers and toes to feel the floor and her hands and feet to steady her, she is developing her gross motor skills by stretching her lower leg muscles when walking and using her legs and arms to support her making the movements. She is also using cognitive skills as she is thinking about how a caterpillar moves and then had to figure out how she would be able to try and copy its movements when whey have different body structures.

Physical play

Physical play is play that helps the child’s muscles and bones to develop. Physical play is the most active type of play and can be performed inside or outside. This type of play starts at birth but develops further as the child matures. The children first start by playing with their own feet and to start to pick things up as they get a little older, at about 9 months coordination can be developed by introducing swings in to the child’s play. Once the child is able to sit up without aid then riding toys can be introduced to help the child to be more mobile and move about more this is usually at the age of around 12 months. Balance is the next factor to be introduced at round about 18 months this helps the child to develop more balance. This is around the same age that the children start to use slides and trying to climb things.

Outdoor play can include skipping, running and hopscotch. Indoor play can include dancing, gymnastics and running games. Physical play often includes the use of equipment or apparatus. For outdoor play there are climbing frames, swings, slides and see-saws and for indoor play you can get things such as trampolines, bats and balls, wall bars and ropes.

Using a climbing frame can help a child’s development in many ways. It helps a child’s fine motor skills as the child needs to grip the bars on the climbing frame using their hands, feet and fingers or else they will fall off.

Climbing frames can help to develop gross motor skills as well as fine motor skills because the child needs to use their arms and legs to pull themselves up and to be able to climb higher.

Cognitive skills can also be developed during this activity as the child has to think what the next step is and also need to use logic to complete the task. If the child is playing on the climbing frame with another child or a group of children then it is also developing his interpersonal, socialising and communication skills.

Physical play can help develop co-ordination skills, which will help the child to be able to move around easily and with good direction.

Ball games can help to develop hand eye coordination and foot eye coordination. When playing throwing and catching games it can help develop both fine and gross motor skills along with cognitive skills as well. Fine motor skills can be progressed in this activity when the child is using their hands to catch the ball, their fingers to grip the ball so they don’t drop it, and their feet to stand up on. The gross motor skills improve when using the arms to reach for the ball and legs to run for the ball. Cognitive skills are used in this activity because the child is using mathematical skills by recognising when the ball is at a sensible distance for the child to attempt to catch it.

Although a lot of physical play is very energetic it doesn’t have to be. Physical play where a child is using up a lot of energy is usually known as manipulative play but there is another type of physical play then doesn’t include running around and getting hot. This type of play is called construction play. This is where the children can build things using bricks and blocks and there is usually something to show at the end of this. Older children usually decide what they are going to build before they start and have a picture of what they think it will look like when it is finished in their head, where as younger children often start building then decide what it is going to be or they change their mind half way through and change it to be something else.

Creative play

Creative play is not just about getting messy although yes it does include paints, clay and glitter but it also includes things like making up dances, singing songs and play writing.

Creative play encourages children to explore and find new things and different materials. Children get the chance to work with materials they wouldn’t normally get to use, such as cotton wool, sand pictures and even rice. Creative play encourages the children to express themselves with actions, drawings or songs rather than just communicating in an every day style.

Creative play starts very early, although creating pictures usually doesn’t start till around the 18 month mark and even then it’s not a specific but more of a squiggle. The earlier signs of creative play are things like dancing to music and making noises.

One creative activity the children can do it to complete a texture rub. This activity can be done at any age and can be altered to suite the level of the child. Gather a group of materials that are textured and get the children to feel and handle them, then rub them on different parts of the body. For older children get them to describe how the material feels and would it be good in different setting for example bubble wrap for carpet. This improves the child’s sense of touch and it also for the older children improves their intellectual skills and cognitive skills as they will have to think about the material and discuss it with the group.

Action songs are a good way to get children to be creative, ask them to dance to the song and do the actions for songs like 5 little ducks or pat a cake pat a cake. This will improve the children’s communication skills and also their listening and concentration skills as they will have to listen to the song and be aware of which action to do at which part of the song.

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