“In play, children work together to change the rules to meet the situation they face, which is powerful social experience.” – Joan Almon
Mildred Bernice Parten Newhall, was an American Sociologist and a researcher at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development. Parten is very well know for her research on social play among children from the age group of 2-5 years during the late 1920’s. She observed children in a one minute time frame and recorded their behaviours which lead to explaining the different types of play occurring in different age groups. The observation lead her to explaining that play also varies in complexity as the age varies and also depends on the type of interaction the children have among them. Based on her observations Parten categorized six stages of play; Unoccupied, Onlooker, Solitary, Parallel, Associative and Cooperative play.
Unoccupied play behaviour is observed among children from 2-3 years of age, where the child is not involved in any form of play and will be randomly moving around watching or not watching other children in play.
Onlooker play behaviour is usually observed in toddlers where the children are not involved in any play activity but will be very keenly observing and enjoying other children at play. Unoccupied and Onlooker are almost similar.
In solitary play the child or children play by themselves; all alone and do not involve any other children. There is no interaction happening in this stage of play.
Parallel play involves 3 or 4 children playing together with or without the same toys, without any interaction.
Associative play is that stage of play where the child plays by interacting with other children. The child is in a group, sharing materials and interacting but will not be involved in any common activity. Here the child is learning to associate with others.
Cooperative play is the most social form of play where a group of children are involved in a common activity with a lot of interaction, striving to achieve a goal, with different members involved in various roles leading to a meaningful outcome.
Parten’s findings suggests that the children involve in complex activities as they grow and mature and play becomes more complex with age. The stages identified by Parten does not overall disappear as the child matures, she in fact observed that glimpses of earlier stages of play is sometimes observed in children of higher age groups.
By Dr Srividya K.
- Functional play, (sensori motor stage), wherein the child explores his surroundings with the help of his senses and gains an understanding of the environment, which is play for the child.
- Symbolic play (pre operational stage), the child is trying to represent things around symbolically.
- Games with rules (Concrete operation stage), the child at this stage is ready to play more constructive games involving rules.
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