Play is the corner stone of development in children as they learn about themselves and the world around them. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right to every child.
Play offers ideal opportunities for children to develop as a whole child by strengthen their cognitive, physical, social and emotional skills. Play also allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination and a love for learning and exploring.
As young children become more aware of others in their world, they begin to engage in Parallel Play. Toddlers explore their environment with newly discovered physical skills and enjoy playing independently with toys. They begin to see themselves as part of a social group, but are still egocentric, or self-centered in their thinking.
As children develop more interest in their peers and more skills to interact with others, they enter the Associative Play stage. At this stage, children may play the same game with one another, but are not necessarily working together in an organized manner to create something.
Cooperative play, starts emerging in four and five year olds. As their social and emotional development matures, children play cooperatively with others. Their play has an organized structure and children will communicate with each other as they work together towards a common goal. In this play stage, children learn respect for others property, realize they may need permission to use others toys, and are more willing to share their toys.