Over the past two weeks I talked about the benefits of transitioning your child from a bottle to a straw cup and provided tips to help with the transition. Today I want to move away from feeding and discuss the cornerstone to language development, play stages. A huge part of my job as a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist is to provide parents with ways to teach their child language concepts through play. A child’s job is to play and through play they develop many physical, emotional, social and language skills. There is a whole lot of learning going on just by throwing around a ball or racing a car in the kitchen.
In order to get to the fun information we need to get through the boring stuff. Theory always bores me to tears, but it’s the basis for how we teach children through each of the play stages. Grab your coffee and bear with me.
You may or may not have heard of Jean Piaget. His theory on cognitive development was based around his findings while assisting Alfred Binet (you know, the developer of the Binet IQ test), with intelligence tests in the early 1920s. He discovered that young children made the same pattern of mistakes that older children and adults did not. This led him to the theory that younger children have different cognitive processes than adults. In 1923 he proposed a global theory of cognitive development, in which he broke down into four distinct sophisticated phases of “thinking” that children pass through on their way to an adult level of intelligence. I won’t bore you with the individual stages but if you want to learn more check out this article about the key concepts of cognitive development.
Piaget theorized the Stages of Play, which correspond with each stage of cognitive development.
Sensorimotor Stage (Ages 0-2): Practice Play
Play consist of repeated body movements. During this stage a child explores their environment using his or her physical senses. Play is centered completely around themselves or objects around them. Examples: mouthing toys, playing peek-a-boo, pushing a ball.
Preoperational Stage (Ages 2-7): Symbolic (Pretend) Play
Starting at age 2, a child will develop more advanced play skills, engaging in make-believe games and fantasy roles. Favorite activities include dressing up as their favorite super hero and pretending to boss around their siblings as the “mommy” or “daddy”. Children will also start to use various objects for a variety of functions. As an example, every long stick like object becomes my son’s lightsaber or sword, even my knitting needles.
Concrete Operational Stage (Ages 7-11): Games with Rules
Play at this stage becomes rule oriented and structured. Children focus on the social aspect of play, with certain rules that are “allowed”. This is the stage where you start to hear children say “you can’t do it because it is against the rules”. Competition begins and team sports or group play becomes a large part of a child’s life.
What play stage does your child seem to be in at this time? What are some of his or her favorite activities and how do you make learning fun?