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PlaygroundEquipment Blog
Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Parents Need to Know About Age-Appropriate Play

Playtime is a crucial part in every child's life. With the changing times, the traditional playing time has changed as well. From playing with mere paper dolls or hide-and-seek outdoors, children have evolved to playing with high-tech gadgets while seeking the comforts of their own home. Without any age specification, technology does not specify the age appropriate play skills and specific child development. What is the right play for the right age?

Play is a sturdy vehicle for your child’s development. Photo by Marcus Kwan via Flickr

In a Reuters article, online gaming company OSMO Chief Executive Officer Pramon Sharma explained that “if you limit a child’s experience to just digital games, only some parts of their brains are getting exercised.” According to a study from the Montana State University, play is an important factor for the healthy child development. The Association for Childhood Education International adds that there is a “need for children of all ages to play.” Play should teach children social and motor skills and cognitive thinking.

“Play is an important vehicle for developing self-regulation as well as for promoting language, cognition, and social competence,” reports The National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Last year, The Dailymail reported that traditional playtime is over as they reach seven years old., an online retailing company confirmed that their sales have reflected a dramatic increase in kids going for technology-driven toys. From 1 to 5 years old, the article notes that children’s response to dolls, cars, and blocks are still normal for their age. However, as they reach the age of seven, the article reports that children veer away from these toys and ask for tablets and their own personal computer.

In a statement, Retail Brand Director of Gary Kibble explained the drastic shift of kids towards tech-savvy toys, “This is the first generation of children for whom playing with a computer feels just as natural as playing with dolls or marbles.”

Age-appropriate play paves the way to bigger opportunities for your children. Photo by Jason Parks via Flickr

At the age of seven, playtime should be both monitored at home and also in school. It is then the responsibility of schools to teach and provide children with toys, age appropriate learning materials, and other sports equipment appropriate for their skills for a complete playtime experience. There are several types of play specific for the changing needs of every child.

Types Of Age-Appropriate Play

Children and playtime go together. They could either play on their own, with other children, or with other adults. As parents change the diet of their children depending on their physical development, they should also be equally aware of the need to change their playtime and learning activities. Here are some of the types of play according to age groups:

  • Early Months Of Infancy
    • Unoccupied Or Exploratory Play: During the early weeks of infancy up to three months, babies are moving their hands and feet which seems like random movements, but this is the earliest type of play that they do. Age appropriate play for infants include face-to-face interaction, stretching, kicking, responding to noises, and even smiling.
  • Three To 18 Months
    • Solitary And Onlooker Play: At this stage, babies tend to keep playtime all to themselves. They prefer to look at the people around them playing or talking. Watch out for you baby when he brings his hands together, trying to sit up, staring and enjoying bright colors, babbling, squealing, giggling, and responding to facial sounds and expressions. The age appropriate activities for every 1 year old may involve picking up objects, crawling, taking small steps, and even following simple commands.
    • Game: Follow The Leader. Act as the leader and ask your husband (or another relative) to be your child’s playmate. Give simple commands like jump, sit, and stand. Tell your husband to face your baby as he follows your commands while letting your baby see the right things to do.
  • 18 Months To Two Years Old
    • Parallel Play: Age appropriate activities two year olds are involved with include playing with other children but with little or no interaction at all. As such, children are also learning the idea of property rights like which toy belongs to who. Learning activities such as role-playing and dressing up. Children at this age will likely to play like rolling a ball, pushing, pulling, stacking toys, climbing furniture, running, jumping, and drawing.

Playtime is not all about fun. It’s an avenue to sharpen your kid’s focus and mind, too.
    • Game: Hand And Feet Painting. Lay down a large paper and bowls of food coloring (make sure that the colors vary). Let the kids soak their hands and feet in the bowls and then teach them how to print their hands and feet all over the large paper. Let it dry and see the masterpiece!
  • Four To Five Years Old
    • Associative Play: During this period, children become more interested in interactive and social play rather than toys. Unlike the parallel play, associative play teaches the lesson of sharing and cooperation. They are starting to learn and use reasoning to develop a set of values. Preschoolers are all about working on their imagination so they enjoy going to the grocery store, playing house, or being a superhero.
    • Games Applicable: Skipping and hopping, throwing and catching, building blocks, jumping rope, understanding shapes and sizes, counting and alphabets.
  • Four And Up
    • Motor-Physical Play. This type of developmentally appropriate play starts during infancy when they started putting things in their mouth. They try to explore articles and discover patterns to find what works and what doesn’t. Running and jumping could encompass other types of games like playing tag and even sports such as running.

A play equipment that allows children of all ages to come together is both effective and affordable.
    • Expressive And Fantasy Play. This type of play focuses on children and their feelings. Learning activities involved in this type of play focuses on drawing, painting, and even writing.
    • Cooperative Play. This type of play is focused on cooperation and collaboration. It involves complex negotiation and communication. Teachers may go for games like Follow the Leader, Simon Says, and other team games.

Go For Age-Appropriate Play!
Most parents may think that playtime is a simple child’s play, but they are missing the point. Playtime’s purpose is to pass on learning through a fun experience. For every age group starting from infancy, playtime is specifically designed to access the different parts of the brain and enhance growth and development.

Age-appropriate play works to slowly and properly send through the different areas of development a child must obtain. As such, the home and school should be well-informed of the different types of play fit for your child’s age and developmental needs. Even if technology has overthrown interactive play, Toronto Sun reports that tablet apps from Osmo and Tiggly have found a way to learn spatial, language, counting in the real world with online games.

May it be online, outdoors, or at school, parents and teachers must associate the right type of play with their age. With the age appropriate playground equipment, children will have a complete playtime experience.

Learn about the author: Jennifer Holmes

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