9.7 Play

Freud saw play as a means for children to release pent-up emotions and to deal with emotionally distressing situations in a more secure environment. Vygotsky and Piaget saw play as a way of children developing their intellectual abilities (Dyer & Moneta, 2006). Piaget created stages of play that correspond with his stages of cognitive development. The stages are:

Table 9.2: Piaget’s Stages of Play361
Stage Description
Functional Play Exploring, inspecting, and learning through repetitive physical activity.
Symbolic Play The ability to use objects, actions, or ideas to represent other objects, actions, or ideas and may include taking on roles. 362
Constructive Play Involves experimenting with objects to build things; learning things that were previously unknown with hands on manipulations of materials.363
Games with Rules Imposes rules that must be followed by everyone that is playing; the logic and order involved forms that the foundations for developing game playing strategy364

While Freud, Piaget, and Vygostsky looked at play slightly differently, all three theorists saw play as providing positive outcomes for children.

Mildred Parten (1932) observed two to five year-old children and noted six types of play. Three types she labeled as non-social (unoccupied, solitary, and onlooker) and three types were categorized as social play (parallel, associative, and cooperative). The table below describes each type of play. Younger children engage in non-social play more than those who are older; by age five associative and cooperative play are the most common forms of play (Dyer & Moneta, 2006).365

Table 9.3: Parten’s Classification of Types of Play366
Category Description
Unoccupied Play Children’s behavior seems more random and without a specific goal. This is the least common form of play.
Solitary Play Children play by themselves, do not interact with others, nor are they engaging in similar activities as the children around them.
Onlooker Play Children are observing other children playing. They may comment on the activities and even make suggestions, but will not directly join the play.
Parallel Play Children play alongside each other, using similar toys, but do not directly act with each other
Associative Play Children will interact with each other and share toys, but are not working toward a common goal.
Cooperative Play Children are interacting to achieve a common goal. Children may take on different tasks to reach that goal.

  1. Cognitive and Social Types of Play (n.d.). Retrieved from https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-play↩︎

  2. Symbolic Play (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/s/symbolic-play↩︎

  3. Constructive Play (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/c/constructive-play↩︎

  4. Games with Rules (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/g/games-rules↩︎

  5. Lifespan Development - Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0↩︎

  6. Lifespan Development - Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0↩︎