What does it mean to play? Under the concept of “game” we include a very high number of behaviors that present many differences between them.
Play is a very important activity during childhood , and children must be given opportunities to play. In play, the child finds pleasure in his own performance.
Some of these activities, which involve playing, are individual, and consist of pure movements; others involve creating a fictional world , reproducing a reality through construction, social activities carried out in groups …
But what do children play according to their age? What does each type of game bring them? We are going to talk about the four types of children’s games, their functions, characteristics and examples. But first, let’s get to know the characteristics of the game according to the Swiss biologist and epistemologist Jean Piaget.
The characteristics of the game according to Piaget
According to Piaget, play is defined only by a certain orientation of behavior , and does not constitute a particular type of activity. Among its characteristics, Piaget highlights the following:
- It is an activity that has the end in itself, unconcerned with the result.
- It is a spontaneous activity .
- Provides pleasure rather than utility.
- It is an activity with a relative lack of organization.
- It serves to release conflicts or resolve them.
- It can be used as motivation to carry out other activities.
Four types of children’s play
As the child grows and develops at a motor, cognitive, social level … his play also develops. It is very difficult to separate these concepts, since they are intrinsically related
Thus, the child’s play evolves with its own global evolution. His game influences his development and vice versa. And it is that children do not play the same when they are babies as as they grow, because their abilities, tastes, preferences and needs also change .
What does the type of game depend on? Get to know it through the four types of children’s play according to age, following Piaget’s proposal.
Exercise or functional game
During the first months of life, according to Piaget, the child performs repetitive motor-type activities, “like a game”, which he has achieved in other contexts for adaptive purposes.
He does it for sheer pleasure , and these types of movements serve to consolidate what has been acquired. These are movements of the body itself, or with objects around it.
In the evolutionary history of the child, we find some antecedents to this type of exercise game; specifically, activities such as vacuum sucking or repeating movements with the legs.
In the fifth stage of the sensorimotor period proposed by Piaget, the child is capable of complicating his actions for the mere pleasure of reproducing them. Thus, he performs movements with the body or certain activities on objects.
Here the child loses interest in the objects themselves , and becomes more concerned with the activity, showing their playful or playful attitude through smiles, laughter and a playful face.
Symbolic or pretended play
This type of game is also called fictional, fantasy, dramatic or imaginative game. It is the second type of play to appear during the child’s development. It appears during the second year of life , approximately. These are games that involve the use of symbols (symbolic game).
It is characterized by using an abundant symbolism, which is formed through imitation. Thus, the child produces scenes from real life, and modifies them according to his needs or interests.
In this type of game, the symbols acquire their meaning in the activity itself; For example, pieces of paper can become banknotes, a banana can become a telephone , a cardboard box in a house, etc.
When the child practices symbolic play, he turns many of his toys into a support for the realization of the game itself.
In symbolic play, the child exercises the social roles of the activities that surround him; for example, he plays at being a doctor, teacher, teacher, singer … What he is actually doing, through play, is submitting reality to his wishes and needs .
Game of rules
As we have seen, in symbolic play the child uses a large number of rules, but at the same time, he can modify the conditions and manipulate the game to his liking. Children are getting older and around six or seven years another type of game begins to appear: the game of rules.
It is a necessarily social game, in which there are rules that define it. What determines this type of game is the very structure of the rules and their follow-up.
Thus, in the game of rules, players must respect the rules, which are what determine who wins. In this type of game, children have to cooperate with each other to carry out the game; everyone has to adapt to the rules, while trying to prevent others from winning.
All this forces them to put themselves in the other’s point of view (which favors their cognitive empathy), since they must anticipate their actions and try not to carry them out.
How does this type of game benefit you? It contributes to the psychic development of the child, by enhancing the knowledge of oneself through comparison with others, through a series of elements:
- The competitiveness
- The cooperation
- Social decentration
- Moral development
Finally, in construction games, the rules are to artificially reproduce the world. This game can be played alone or cooperatively, as a team.
Children’s building capacity is determined by some variables: their motor development and their level of motor ability, and their intellectual development.
Thus, to play construction games, even if it seems a “simple” game, requires the use of a mental model , as well as an advanced representation capacity.
In this sense, we are not talking about a type of constructive game such as stacking blocks, for example, more typical of the first years of life. In this case, we are talking about more complex constructions , in which rules and spatial concepts of older children intervene.
And your children, what do they play? In what evolutionary epoch are they? We have known the evolution of the game during childhood, through four types of them, although within them, there are even more variations.
Whatever stage they are in, and whatever preferences they have, the important thing is that children enjoy playing , that is, that the motivation is in the activity itself, in the act of playing itself.
And above all, that you can accompany them in this magical stage of life, full of discoveries, tinged with innocence and characterized by exploration ; Also, and above all, on the field of play!
“The things that children learn on their own initiative during free play cannot be learned in any other way.”
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