Play is an essential part of childhood, and it is one of the primary ways children learn about the world around them. As children grow, their play patterns change and evolve, and one type of play that becomes increasingly important as they get older is associative play. In this article, we will explore what associative play is, the age at which it typically develops, some examples of associative play, and the benefits it offers children.
What is Associative Play?
Associative play is a type of play in which children play alongside each other, but not necessarily with each other. Unlike cooperative play, in which children work together towards a common goal, associative play involves children engaging in similar activities or using the same materials, but pursuing their own interests and goals.
In associative play, children are still socialising with one another and may engage in brief conversations or interactions, but their focus is primarily on their own activities rather than on playing together.
Age at Which Associative Play Develops
Associative play typically emerges around the age of three, and it becomes increasingly common as children progress through the preschool and early elementary school years. At this stage, children have developed the ability to engage in more complex and imaginative play, and they are increasingly interested in playing with their peers.
Some examples of associative play include:
- Playing with blocks: Children may build their own structures alongside each other, without necessarily coordinating their efforts.
- Dress-up play: Children may dress up in costumes and act out their own stories, without necessarily interacting with each other.
- Drawing or coloring: Children may sit together and draw or color their own pictures, occasionally commenting on each other’s work, but primarily focusing on their own creations.
Associative Play: Stages Of Play
we will take a closer look at the different stages of associative play and what they entail.
Stage One: Parallel Play
Parallel play is the first stage of associative play and typically occurs between the ages of two and three. At this stage, children play next to each other, but their activities and goals are independent of each other. For instance, two children may be playing with blocks but not necessarily building anything together. Instead, they are building their own structures.
During parallel play, children may interact briefly, but their communication is minimal. Instead, they are primarily focused on their own activities. This stage of play is an essential step towards social interaction as it helps children get comfortable around other children.
Stage Two: Associative Play
Associative play is the second stage of associative play, and it typically occurs between the ages of three and four. During this stage, children are still playing next to each other, but they are beginning to show interest in what their peers are doing. Children may occasionally comment on each other’s play, but their play goals remain independent of each other.
At this stage, children are beginning to develop social skills, such as taking turns, sharing, and communicating. However, they are still primarily focused on their own interests and goals. Associative play helps children to understand social boundaries and learn how to interact with others, setting the stage for more cooperative play in the future.
Stage Three: Cooperative Play
Cooperative play is the final stage of associative play and typically occurs between the ages of four and six. During this stage, children are playing together towards a common goal, and their activities are coordinated. Children are actively engaged with each other, communicating and sharing ideas as they play.
Cooperative play involves children working together towards a common goal. For example, a group of children may work together to build a tower or put on a play. Cooperative play allows children to build teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, which are essential life skills that they will use in school and beyond.
Benefits of Associative Play
Associative play provides children with a range of benefits that help them to develop social, emotional, and cognitive skills. We will explore some of the benefits of associative play.
- Development of Social Skills
Associative play provides children with an opportunity to interact with others, communicate their ideas, and build relationships. As children play together, they learn social skills such as taking turns, sharing, compromising, and negotiating. They also learn how to resolve conflicts and solve problems together, which are essential skills they will need in their future relationships.
- Encourages Independence
During associative play, children are free to explore their interests and ideas independently. They are not dependent on others for entertainment, and this helps them to develop their independence and decision-making skills. Children learn to think for themselves and make their own choices, which is essential for building self-confidence.
- Develops Cognitive Skills
Associative play allows children to use their imagination, creativity, and problem-solving skills. As they play, they use their cognitive skills to think critically and find solutions to challenges that arise during play. This type of play also helps to build children’s attention span and memory, which are crucial for academic success.
- Enhances Language Development
During associative play, children engage in conversations and communicate with each other. They learn to express their ideas and feelings, and they also learn to listen to others. This type of play provides children with an opportunity to develop their language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and communication.
- Builds Teamwork Skills
Associative play involves children working together towards a common goal. This type of play helps children to develop teamwork skills such as cooperation, collaboration, and communication. Children learn how to work with others to achieve a common goal, which is an essential skill that they will need throughout their lives.
In conclusion, associative play is an important type of play that emerges around the age of three and becomes increasingly common as children progress through the preschool and early elementary school years. Through associative play, children have the opportunity to develop social skills, promote independence, enhance creativity and imagination, and prepare for more cooperative play in the future. Parents and caregivers can support the development of associative play by providing children with opportunities to play with peers, encouraging them to pursue their own interests and goals, and providing a variety of materials and activities for them to explore.