How does social play evolve in childhood?
The game is a very important aspect for the social, emotional and cognitive development of children. It is a playful activity with which they have fun while they learn . Since they are very young, children play. But what do they play? How is the evolution of the game, specifically on a social level?
The sociologist Mildred B. Parten, in a classic study carried out in the twenties, identified six types of early play in children , whose degree of socialization is increasing, as we will see throughout the article. Check out more interesting articles on our Blog Fam.
He found that as children get older, in general, their play tends to become more social ; that is, it is becoming a more interactive and cooperative game. At first they play alone, then with other children, and finally together. But what happens in each of the phases of the social and non-social game?
Phases of the social game: six stages
According to the sociologist’s research, we find two major phases in children’s play; the first phase is the non-social phase (which encompasses four types of games: idle game, spectator game, solo independent game, and parallel game).
The second is the phase of the social game itself, which includes two stages: the associative game and the cooperative or organized complementary game. Let’s discover each of these stages.
1. Idle game
The first type of children’s game, which is a non-social game, is the idle game. In this phase the child does not seem to be playing , but observes everything that is of interest to him momentarily.
2. Spectator game
In this second phase, which is also non-social play, the child spends most of the time watching other children play.
The “child bystander” talks to the other children and asks questions or makes suggestions, but does not participate directly in the game . He is definitely looking at certain groups of children and not just anything that is exciting.
3. Solitaire standalone game
In this type of play, which is still from the first stage of non-social games, the child plays alone, with toys that are different from those used by nearby children, and makes no effort to approach them.
4. Side game
In parallel play, which although it may seem like a type of social game, it is not yet, the child plays independently, but in the midst of other children. Playing alongside but not with others , the “parallel player” does not try to influence the other children’s play.
5. Associative game
With the associative game we already entered the stage of social games. The child already plays with other children. In this type of game, children play in a similar but not identical way.
They follow each other and try to control who can play in the group. They are more interested in being with the other children than in the activity itself.
6. Cooperative play
Finally, in cooperative play, also called complementary organized play, children are organized into groups to achieve some goal.
For example, doing something, playing a formal game, a board game, or dramatizing a situation ( acting out ). A division of labor is already produced (everyone has a role, and through the set of roles a common goal is reached).
As an interesting fact, studies show that this type of game encourages children to reason about the feelings of others , which makes it a useful tool for developing skills such as empathy.
The evolution of social gaming: games for all ages
Although the phases that the sociologist Mildred once proposed provide interesting information, it is important to know that today, most researchers consider this characterization of Mildred to be too simplistic.
And it is true that children of all ages participate in all the categories proposed by the sociologist. For example, while solitary physical play becomes less common between the ages of three and six, solitary constructive play does not.
The social game as part of the development
By this we mean that, although Mildred’s phases are good for understanding the different types of children’s play, from a social point of view, we have to see them as something more global and not so structured or linear.
And it is that current researchers agree that these phases, although in some cases they can be linear, sequential and progressive (that the child passes from one to another as he grows), the truth is that there are children who can start later through one of the phases, “go back” to the previous one, grow and try new types of games, etc.
The game: a dynamic process
That is to say, that the game is a dynamic, living process , that each child lives in his own way, although there are generalities and it is interesting to know what aspects are important in each of these types of game.
And in addition, we must recognize Mildred for the work of categorizing this type of game and the importance she gave to the social element in the equation, something that can hardly be separated from the gaming world and the game . Children socialize, play, learn, and all these processes feed and feed themselves.