How playing changes from 0 to 3 years
Playing is a fundamental experience throughout childhood: as children play not only do they have fun, but they also express their emotions and learn, they put themselves to the test, make discoveries, create, learn rules and how to socialise.
Playing prepares children for life: by experimenting the many different scenarios of games and playing, children not only learn to cope with real-life situations but also that there are rules to follow.
Playing is therefore is of enormous educational value since it stimulates cognitive skills through which children get to known themselves.
Children play in different ways according to their age and personalities: as I often say, we should not expect children to have skills that they have still not acquired, but should give them time and space to think for themselves and learn new skills.
The famous educationalist Jean Piaget (1896-1980) believed that playing evolves in two main directions: the transition from concrete to abstract and the transition from egocentrism to sociality.
In the first two years of life a child essentially interacts with its body, with the body of the person who is taking care of him and with objects that are placed within its reach. In the first year of life, a child’s experience is about exploration and discovery through the senses and learning to control his movements. It is therefore very important to choose toys very carefully, since they must not only be certified but also stimulating, colourful and made of different materials.
After the first year of life, playing essentially becomes about movement: running, jumping, getting dirty, handling objects... these are actions that help to express all the emotions that the child experiences throughout the day, and that he tries to develop and cope with.
It is only when your child is two that he or she will begin to give a symbolic role to playing: dynamics become more structured, the child "pretends" to be someone else, things become something else. These role games tend to widen to the point of including family members and friends, allowing the child to play out situations that are sometimes painful and difficult, but realistic, and that he or she is able to resolve independently. It is indeed at this age that the child experiences his first fear of abandonment, when he starts to separate himself from the adult he sees as his reference point more and more often, on his personal path towards independence.
So remember.... it is not strictly correct to say "my child is just playing": what your child is actually doing is learning about life and how to cope with it; while it is true that children enjoy themselves as they play and learn, it is just as true that it is this very sense of joy and well-being that helps to develop their cognitive and behavioural skills.