Identify how children’s play needs and preferences change in relation to their stage of development

Qualification: Level 3 Diploma for the Early Years Educator
Unit: Unit 3.1: Understand the value of play in Early Years
Learning outcome: 3 Understand play at different stages of children’s development
Assessment criteria: 3.2 Identify how children’s play needs and preferences change in relation to their stage of development

  • As children grow, develop and become more independent, their play needs and preferences will change
  • 0 to 3 months – exploration using primarily eyes and ears but includes relexive kicking and swiping, attracted to bright and vibrant colours, visual focus develops from about 8 inches to a metre within this time so play objects should be within this field, attracted to slower-moving and quieter toys
  • 4 to 7 months – can track movement better and can distiguish between toys, become more mobile (rolling over), can manipulate objects with better dexterity, will move objects towards mouth
  • 8 to 12 months – become increasingly mobile (crawling, pulling themselves up, climbing, walking whilst holding on to objects etc.), begin to develop pincer grasp, enjoy repetitive tasks, beginning to learn casue and effect and that objects do not disappear when out of sight
  • 12 to 18 months – able to walk without support and enjoy exploration, have more opportunities to choose their own play activities, dexterity improves, language skills beginning to develop
  • 18 to 24 months – more controlled movement including jumping and balancing, can group objects and match angles, basic roleplay skills develop, basic prediction of cause and effect
  • 2 years – increased aptitude at roleplaying, marking develops from squiggles to more accurate depictions, have even more mobility (e.g. can roll, kick aball etc.), play will still often involve only adults but they may observe other children
  • 3 years – children begin to play tigether developing language and social skills, enjoy roleplaying and pretend play together, improved fine motor skills means that can manipulate objects with more precision (e.g play with building blocks, draw basic pictures etc.)
  • 4 to 5 years – better understanding of storylines and pretend roleplay, improved fine motor skills (e.g. can use scissors etc.), play is more complex and less repetitive, children have a foundation of kowledge and experiences to build on
  • Early Years Practitioners should plan activities that are age-appropriate – e.g. a 2 year old may enjoy running around in an open space on their own, whereas a 5 year old may enjoy a structured game with others, such as tag

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