Development of Play Skills for Toddlers
24 to 36 months
- May play with other children but in an occasional or limited way (associative)
- Some cooperation and talking with other children
- May take leader/follower roles in play
- Some pretend play
- Still plays alone frequently
- Interactive level moving toward (cooperative play)
24 to 36 months
Older toddlers, with their physical abilities, problem-solving skills, and love of language, are eager for playmates. Months earlier, they may have watched others playing, or even played side-by-side with another child. Now, they are beginning to play together, sometimes even without fighting! A toddler will develop social skills with time, practice, and your guidance. During this third year, there is also a big leap in a toddlers’ ability to use their imaginations. They no longer just use their toy broom to sweep. It becomes a dance partner or a cowboy’s horse. Two-year-olds often spend a lot of time in pretend play with friends. As they approach three, they begin to make up stories and “rules” for their games. Pretend play also helps children work through difficult experiences, like saying good-bye to a parent at child care
Ketzabel, the teacher, watches Tyisha and Ethan play, both children are almost-three-years-old. They are pretending to be kittens. Ketzabel helps them draw whiskers using washable costume makeup. Their tails were once stockings. Tyisha and Ethan crawl around on all fours and “meow.” Ketzabel sets a shoebox “bowl” of imaginary milk on the floor. “You’ll have to take turns like nice kitties do.” Tyisha and Ethan giggle in between pretend slurps. Tyisha then notices that Ethan’s tail is longer. “I want the big tail!” she shouts as she grabs it. Ketzabel steps in, “Stop, Tyisha. You cannot take Ethan’s tail!” Ketzabel decides to redirect them by suggesting they make new tails out of paper that they can decorate. Tyisha and Ethan happily get to work.
When Ketzabel joins Tyisha and Ethan in play, she helps them develop:
- Creativity as they make their kitty costumes.
- Language skills as they talk together while they play.
- Sharing as they take turns “drinking” their milk.
- Self-control as Ketzabel helps Tyisha understand limits.
- Problem-solving skills as Ketzabel helps them work through the tail crisis.
- Understanding of symbols as they use the shoebox in place of a bowl. This will help them get ready to learn skills that require symbolic thinking like reading and math.
Playtime for Older Toddlers
Say It With Music: “Statue,” “Freeze,” and “Hokey-Pokey” are fun musical games. They offer opportunities to listen and follow directions. They also teach about words and sounds and allow children to move and exercise their bodies. Toy drums, tambourines, and other instruments add to the fun.
Quiet Play: A child’s play doesn't always have to be full of action. Looking at books, listening to stories, and drawing pictures all build your child’s imagination and language skills. Many children enjoy playing with sand, mud, or dough. These activities can be soothing and relaxing. Providing art supplies like paper, crayons, and paints will let them create with their hands.
Act It Out: Encourage fantasy play by providing dress-up clothes and other props. Use items like hats, scarves, backpacks, bowls and containers, music makers, and whatever else you and your child can find. Join the fun. When you get involved, you can help her expand on her ideas and also learn about her thoughts and feelings as she acts them out through play.