Play for Young Children Types and Values

The play has been very instrumental in children’s development for many centuries. The choice of the type of play has a great impact on the value the child gets from active involvement in the act (Landreth 6). Play is any structured activity that helps connect the children with the outside environment. Play therapy is mainly applied to children who are between the age of three and eleven in order to provide an avenue to help them to learn. According to Landreth, play therapy is usually the application of theoretical models in a bid to establish and improve the interpersonal processes that are vital in assisting the therapists in utilizing the plays as a medium of change in the psychosocial life of children (1-15). The therapy is pivotal in the achievement of optimal functioning and to a larger extent the overall development of the children. This research paper will discuss the various types and values of play for young children and how they help in impacting positive values in the children.

Types of play

Play is an important tool in the detection and analysis of a child’s character and behavior. There are several theoretical models that have been integrated with children’s play activities to achieve maximum benefits to the children. According to Lambeth, play can be useful in therapeutic and child development. Schaefer also noted that play has a major impact in instilling cognitive behaviors in children and is also effective in the understanding of individual traits in a group setting (123-132). Diagnosis of psychiatric disorders mainly involves the observation of children while in play (Schaefer 123). The understanding of the various types of play and their value to the children is, therefore, a must for manufacturers and parents.

Several forms of play have been documented and found to be effective in instilling positive impacts on the overall growth and development of children. The plays are classified according to the level of input and direction that the child and an adult have on the overall development and initiation of the project. Onlooker and solitary plays are the most common forms of play practiced by many children especially toddlers. Parallel and associative plays are also common with preschoolers and young toddlers. Children who are above five years are overly involved in competitive play due to the rewards brought by these plays. Toddlers and preschoolers also perform the unoccupied play. It is worth noting that most of the plays are not interactive apart from the competitive and associative (Douglas 15-34).

Onlooker play is a form of play where toddlers and older kids are involved in observing what other children are doing. They are passive participants since there is a lack of close interaction. According to Douglas, onlooker play is pivotal in assisting toddlers to learn aspects such as language and behaviors (16). The toddlers are able to learn how the other children behave with respect to acts such as hitting. They are able to associate a smile with joy while crying is associated with pain afflicted through hitting and fighting. Vital lessons such as ways of getting attention from the other children are also learned through this form of play. This play is imperative since it lays the foundation for a further relationship with other kids.

Solitary play is mainly observed in young toddlers where they play by themselves but generally are in close contact with fellow kids. Older children are less frequently involved in this form of play. Solitary play benefits the toddlers by helping them acquire vital skills which are instrumental in interaction with the environment around them (Douglas 124-126). Positive reinforcement towards this play is guaranteed if someone is in handy to prevent the older children from disturbing the toddler by stealing or dismantling the toys.

Parallel play is evident when the toddler is thought to be involved in similar play if left in the same room with other children engaging in that kind of play. In this case, the toddlers are involved in similar play but in different ways. Douglas asserted that the toddlers are provided with opportunities to imitate other people’s activities. This is mainly observed when two toddlers are playing or role-playing their parents (345-354).

Associative play is disorganized in that several children may be involved in one activity but each is acting in their own way. The preschoolers benefit from acquiring skills that allow them to know the dos and don’ts in a group setting. It encourages the preschoolers to be philanthropic, develops language, and enhances ways of cooperating with others Competitive play in older children involves games that are governed by set rules that are useful in getting a winner. The children benefit since they get the chance to create close bonds with a few participants. It is believed to encourage creativity and instill self-esteem in children. Finally, the child is relatively stationary and not engaged in unoccupied play. This play helps instill discipline in children (Douglas 254-299).

Play value

Play value is mainly regarded as the effectiveness of a toy or a game to actively involve children thus allowing them to have fun or fulfillment. This means that the toys must have long-term usage and be applicable across several ages. Auerbach asserted that toys must provide play value by encouraging new adventures in future games. Parents and school instructors must adequately engage the children during the selection of the toys. This ensures that only long-lasting and multipurpose toys such as blocks, which have high value, are purchased (Auerbach 150-160). Toys with multiple uses offer high play value since they encourage their users to fit the desires of the child. Playthings must be capable of being used in self-directed play since they are effective in developing practical skills in children. Auerbach also noted that the playthings must be used across stages of development and must be capable of substituting or complementing activities performed by the children. Play value is also improved if the toys promote close interaction and can span several generations. Playthings must also be gender considerate in order for them to help instill positive behaviors in the children. Classical toys and teddy bears are suitable examples of playthings with high play value.


Play is an inseparable activity that is important in the growth and development of children. The different types of play are useful in the acquisition of practical which are vital in life. Playthings with high play value are important in bringing fulfillment and fun to children. It is therefore important to consider factors such as life duration and usage of the toys before purchasing in order to ensure they deliver maximum benefits to the children.


Auerbach, Stevanne. Dr. Toy’s smart play: how to raise a child with a high PQ (play Quotient). New York: St Martins Press, 1999. Print.

Douglas, Ann. The Mother of All Toddler Books. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2004.

Landreth, Garry. Play therapy: the art of the relationship. New York: Brunner-Routledge, 2002.

Schaefer, Charles. Foundations of Play Therapy. Hackensack, NJ: Guilford Publications, Inc, 2004.

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PsychologyWriting. "Play for Young Children Types and Values." September 22, 2023.