Visualize a playroom at a nursery where there are different and variable play centers. An art center, with a variety of art materials; colors, paper, paint brushes, glue, and glitter. A reading center where there is a collection of age appropriate books, a drama center, including a lot of pretend clothes and costumes, and a building block center full of colorful blocks.
What do you think happens when a group of children enter such a room….????
A three year old boy heads directly to the bookshelves, chooses a book and sits down consumed in flipping the pages. A couple of girls go directly to the drama center where they put on some costumes to start their pretend play. A group of children seat themselves at the art center and start painting, coloring or doing collage. But there are always a group of children who just wander around from center to center with no engagement in play whatsoever. They are clueless on what to play or how to play.
One of those wandering children can simply snatch a block from another child, throw it on the floor and kick it, or go around snatching toys from other children.
Why does this child do that? Is it aggression?
Maybe, but what I noticed through the previous years after following up such a child and after performing the P-CIPA (parent child interaction play assessment), its results were always poor and the parent of such a child usually either has no idea that he/she should play with the child or in many cases a parent that wants to play but doesn’t know how to.
I'm sad to say that most of the parents in our community give very low priority or none at all to child development, skill or behavior. Thus preschools should act as guidance to direct parents and correct their misconceptions to accomplish the sacred mission of raising a healthy child both physically and psychologically.
Now let's take an idea about the types of play:
A) Immature play:
- Where the child's play is focused on objects and the child is unable to use the object in a symbolic way (i.e. cannot pretend that the block is a car).
- The child engages in repetitive actions with objects.
- The child wanders from thing to thing failing to engage for a length of time.
- Frequent fighting occurs.
- And very little language is involved in play.
B) Mature play:
- The child's play involves pretend situations with minimal use of concrete objects.
- The child is able to take on an explicit role and creates and follows the rules of the game.
- The play extends for a period of time.
- And there is extensive use of language.
1. A child holding a sword and repetitively saying (pow pow pow I'm a ninja turtle) is an evident example of immature play.
2. A group of children playing "house" and distribute roles "Let's pretend you are mummy and I'm your little girl?"
"But I want to play garage" "ok then lets pretend moms car broke down and we will take it to the garage"
This maturity is not limited to age, and at the nursery we can see a 2 year old playing mature play while a 4 year old is playing immaturely.
It all depends on the care givers coaching techniques and whether the parents put the child's play into their priorities or not.
Therefore I strongly advise every mother and father to start dedicating at least half an hour a day to playing with the child and learning how to amplify the child's' skills and improve behavior through play.
Dear parents, it has been observed that play influences your child's self regulation and behavior modification in addition to two very important skills for early literacy which are oral language and symbolic thinking.
A child's level of oral language proficiency at school entry is one of the strongest predictors of reading success and is very important for later literacy development.
Playing with your child is so much more than just play. It is strengthening your child with skills for a better future.
Dr. Mona Youssri
Psychiatrist and CLC Family Counselor