Cognitive Developmental Theory
Jean Piaget focused on the cognitive development of children, which means the way children process information and problem solve. Cognitive development refers to reasoning, thinking and understanding. Cognitive development is important for knowledge growth. The cognitive domain includes: cause-and-effect, spatial relationships, problem-solving, imitation, memory, number sense, classification, and symbolic play.
Children participate in three distinct stages of play:
Age: Birth to age 2
Children use simple and repetitive movements with objects, people and sounds during play. For example, shaking shakers during music time. They are using their senses and physical abilities to move around and explore their environment.
Age: 2 to 7
Children begin to express themselves using their imagination and curiosity, and take on roles of various things during play. For example, pretending to be a firefighter putting out a fire using a stick found outside in the playground. Children are beginning to imitate actions and language of others that are around them.
Games with Rules
Age: school-aged children
Children negotiate the rules before they engage in a play experience or activity. For example, playing hide and seek. Children are collaborating and cooperating with others.
Social Behaviour Theory
Mildred Parten examined play from a social behaviour perspective. She identified that play progresses through a series of stages, through five types of play:
Children play independently and alone during play experiences and activities. There is a limited amount or no interaction with other children or materials that another child may be playing with.
Children begin to either play independently or beside or across from other peers – they do not play with others.
Children begin to share play materials and participate in similar activities of others around them.
Children participate in group play, collaborating with one another and work toward a common goal. For example, creating a building with blocks and each child takes on different roles to build it. Cooperative play emerges in the early preschool years.
Children are not engaged in play and wander around play areas without a purpose. They may follow others while engaged in their own behaviour. For example, hair twirling and getting on and off of chairs.
Children observe other children or adults in play but do not become involved in the play. The child sits or stands within speaking distance of another child. Children may use this strategy to make suggestions, ask questions, learn about materials or determine how they may participate in a play experience. They do not enter into the play of others.