Week One is almost at a close and I’m delighted at the progress the children have made. For the majority of the children, starting at a new setting has been an exciting adventure. For some, it has been slightly more challenging, serving only to highlight the individuality of the human race. I’ve had the pleasure of talking to lots of parents this week about their children and ways to help them settle and the key message I’d like to send to you is that all of the children will settle in time; for some it is immediate and for others it takes longer. Perseverance is key and I would encourage parents to talk to their children on a morning whilst getting ready about the day ahead. I would also encourage parents to walk their children to class rather than carry them – after all, we want to promote independence in our youngest Wellingtonians.
I would like to theme this Week Ahead on play and stages of play. Psychological theorists believe children develop skills through play to support overall healthy development in core areas, including physical, cognitive, social, emotional, language and literacy. These theories are used throughout Early Years’ Education today. Mildred Parten, an American sociologist and researcher categorised play development in to six different stages. These stages are not necessarily linear and some children may not develop directly from one stage to another. These stages of play are also dependent upon the context and the situation that children find themselves in (e.g. a new setting). Parten was one of the first to study social play in young children and her classic research was published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology in 1932. In this study, she observed children between the ages of 2 – 5 and found the following:
- Unoccupied behaviour
This is seen in the very young and it is believed that this behaviour is not play, rather an observation of the environment for things of interest.
- Solitary play
Infants at this stage engage in playing alone, seemingly unaware of others around them. Here, attention span and interests change quickly.
- Onlooker behaviour
Exhibited through various stages of development. When grouped near other children, the words and actions of others are imitated. A child may also follow the actions of others without directly participating.
- Parallel play
Toddlers usually participate in parallel play. They play alongside each other without attempting to affect each other’s behaviour.
- Associative play
Seen in the early preschool years, children play and talk with each other in play scenarios with a shared purpose that include specific roles. Children lend, borrow and take toys from others. At this stage, children consider their own viewpoint as most important and group work can be difficult.
- Co-operative play
Seen in the later preschool years, this is the highest form of development. Here, children agree on goals and fulfil roles such as playing teacher and pupils, or policemen and nurses. Roles are sustained for the duration of the session, as the children have a greater attention span.
Our pupils are learning all about a new life at Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai and in a short space of time we will see them settle in and demonstrate at which stage of play they are at as unique individuals. The great benefit of using the EYFS as a framework for learning through play intertwined with the Wellington model of education lies in the promotion of what Parten outlined in the 1930’s. She identified the necessity of play to develop skills for overall healthy development in the child. 86 years later, we still advocate that theory here at Wellington College Bilingual Shanghai.