There are many different types of play that enrich children’s development. Identifying whether your preschool offers these play experiences is a useful exercise for parents and educators, as it determines whether the preschool is able to provide ample and adequate opportunities for all the types of play that can have a deep impact on children’s development.

The Key Types of Play at the Play-based Preschool

There are many different types of play that enrich children’s development. Identifying whether your preschool offers these play experiences is a useful exercise for parents and educators, as it determines whether the preschool is able to provide ample and adequate opportunities for all the types of play that can have a deep impact on children’s development.

  • Large motor play: Climbing, running, sliding, swinging, jumping, and engaging in every type of big movement, develops coordination, balance and a sense of one’s own body and its capabilities in the surrounding space
  • Small motor play: Playing with small toys, puzzles, sorting objects, and other activities in this category helps develop dexterity, sharpness and a skillfulness that children are also able to apply in other scenarios that they find themselves in
  • Mastery play: Children often repeat an action in play until they are able to ‘master’ it, such as digging holes. Mastery play is a very powerful tool in building a child’s confidence, his/her perseverance levels, and development of self-awareness
  • Rules-based play: Children often enjoy ‘making up’ their own rules in social situations (also often during role play scenarios). They then move on to thoroughly enjoying the social negotiation involved in adapting the rules for each scenario. Rule-based play was emphasized by Vygotsky (1978) as he stressed that through play children learn to control their impulses and abide by socially agreed-upon rules
  • Construction play: Building things – houses, ships, and other structures, is a basic play type that fosters creative imagination
  • Make-believe play: This type of play encompasses anything that falls under “Let’s Pretend”. Role play also falls under this category. Make-believe play fosters language skill, problem-solving, creativity and imagination
  • Symbolic play: This type of play emphasizes the ability of children to use objects, actions or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas as play. Children take an object at hand and convert it into the item that they need to bring their imagination to life. Symbolic play fosters creativity and imagination, and empowers children to problem-solve
  • Language play: Children develop mastery by playing with words, rhymes, verses, and songs that they make up or change. They tell stories and dramatize them. They are fascinated by foreign languages, especially when they are presented playfully in story, verse, or song
  • Arts play: The integration of any and all kinds of art into play, using whatever resources are available at hand to draw, model, create, perform, among other things. Children explore the arts and use them to express their thoughts, feelings, and ideas
  • Sensory play: Playing with sand, dirt, mud, water, and other materials/toys with different textures, sounds, and smells; this type of play is particularly popular and beneficial with the younger children as they just begin to discover and explore their senses
  • Rough and tumble play: This fundamental form of play teaches children to play roughly without injury as it shapes children’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive behaviors. This type of play fosters an understanding of self-control, compassion towards peers, and comparative sense of a child’s own abilities compared to others
  • Risk-taking play: Children challenge themselves and their abilities as they take risks and discover how to master challenging environments. Contrary to popular belief, children have an innate sense of how far they can progress without harming themselves; in modern play environments, there is very little opportunity for children to assess and take risks, and set their own boundaries, so educators should integrate risk taking play into children’s play experiences

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