9 Different Types of Play and How Preschoolers Learn From Them

Have you seen how happy children are when they are playing?

The benefits of play are aplenty for preschoolers – these fun moments help them develop cognitively, emotionally, physically, and socially too. Education experts understand the impact of play on healthy development. Hence, play times are purposefully scheduled into childcare programmes as part of their early years support.

Here are some of the various types of play preschoolers embark on and learn through:

Different types of play in early childhood and how children learn

1. Solitary play

Is your toddler playing independently and refuses to share his toys? Solitary play is a milestone during the early years as they have yet to comprehend the social concept of sharing, or that they are expected to play with others.

different types of play

Playing on his own gives your child an opportunity to think, observe and figure things out. It’s perfectly fine if this alone time lasts only 5 minutes, and he comes looking for his caregiver frequently. As they grow, the period of solitary/independent play increases along with their imagination, physical abilities, and confidence.

2. Parallel play

Imagine bringing your little one to a friend’s house so the kids can play together, but they end up playing separately?

Parallel play seems like a passive type of activity. In reality, kids are like sponges observing social cues and interactions, how other children are playing with their toys, and basically soaking up what’s happening.

3. Constructive play

This is where children manipulate objects to create something. Their little fingers could be stacking blocks or building a castle with carton boxes, while the children work on their cognitive abilities and fine motor skills. 

When playing with others, children will learn how to share ideas, give instructions, receive instructions and engage in teamwork. Open-ended toys encourage creativity and constructive play. Hence, childcare centres in Singapore are usually equipped with such educational tools that are ideal for structured and unstructured play.

4. Pretend play

Is Little Miss 5 pretending to be her teacher, Miss Tan? Kindergarteners love role-playing and pretending to be a different character. It also gives parents an opportunity to see the world through their children’s eyes. 

different types of play

Pretending to be a baker selling delicious cakes when playing at home? She is also expanding her vocabulary, linguistic ability and her expressiveness for sure!

5. Creative play

Singing a silly made-up song? Using crayons to draw a masterpiece for art? Writing a make-believe story about zombies? These are some ways preschoolers are expressing themselves through their creations!

6. Sensory play / Exploratory play

Sensory play is crucial to brain development and promotes the building of nerve connections along with motor skills. By involving their 5 senses to explore materials, sights, listen to sounds and more, preschoolers are experiencing experimentation and cause-and-effects too.

7. Physical play

Clapping, hopping on a foot, and kicking a ball are some examples of physical play activities. These are also milestone developments that doctors look out for between 6 months old to 6 years old. Kids may invite their friends to play soccer together and learn how to work as a team. 

different types of play

As they get stronger, physical play includes sports like cycling, skipping and swimming too. That’s where a new level of fun begins!

8. Competitive play

With physical activities like sports, dance or artistic expression, the opportunity to compete follows. But for preschoolers, things may not be as serious yet. 

Competitive play simply means games with rules laid out, and usually involves multi players and teams. It may also include some tears and disappointment for the “losing team” and such experiences offers kids an opportunity to learn how to manage their emotions in an unexpected situation. This structured play idea can be made up by the kids too – you would be surprised at how creative they can be!

9. Investigative play

Children are natural explorers about how things work. Investigation and discovery skills can be enhanced through their daily lives. Through investigative play such as science experiments, learning to troubleshoot problems and more, they gradually develop life skills.

Just like learning, playing can be a lifelong journey. Take heart if your 2-year-old is not quite ready to play with others, or even refuses to play on her own for long. Everyone develops differently; it makes a difference when parents give them space to bloom when they are ready to.

Experiential learning to support preschoolers’ development

The advantages of picking up through experience and various types of play outweigh rote learning or endless worksheets. 

At Little Footprints Preschool, we integrate active learning into our childcare programme. Lessons and activities are designed to actively ignite thinking skills, spurring them to ask questions. This empowers children to reflect and think as they absorb information and attain new knowledge.

different types of play

With our Integrated Approach for Theme-based Learning and Experiential Learning pedagogy, we focus on play and hands-on learning, especially for our younger children (18 months to 3 years). Through their journey with us, children acquire an array of skills during their foundation years, prepping them for their life adventures ahead.

Book a tour at your preferred childcare in Singapore and find out more about Little Footprints Preschool’s programmes and curriculum. 


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