Where? Where does good play happen?

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Play, both social and intellectual, occurs in the context of the home environment during the first 3 years. The environmental climate of the home can affect the development of children at play. Incidences of sighted toddlers' social "pretend" play seem to show that by the age of 16 months they make a predetermination about substitutions and about how they are going to use objects during pretend play. Toddlers seem to have a set of responses that have been cued previously.

For example, Victoria (19 months) says "wash dishes". Visual-motor actions did not precede her 2-word utterance. Her eyes did not seem to be targeted to a specific set of housekeeping objects nor was she looking at "dishes". So when she says "wash dishes" the intent seems to have preceded any motivation to "make up" something with objects that are in view.

A range of factors affecting the outcome of play activities are highlighted: arrangement of furniture, familiarity with the layout of rooms in a house, floor freedom, light, air, temperature, all may be important to the toddler, as they structure play experiences.

The curriculum strongly suggests a home-based, parent-teacher model by creating a home-like atmosphere in a classroom situation or using the home as the center of activity. Research on the second and third years of life indicates that a key role is played by elements of the home environment, the involvement of significant people, accessibility and availability of materials, toys, and equipment. Ecological research shows the home environment and family members represent the most practical source and the most available competent resource for teaching children under the age of four.

Does good play happen in the home? In the bathroom? In the yard? On the bus? The child with visual/multiple handicaps needs to locate and stabilize key characteristics associated with many different environments: (1) stationary status of objects; (2) (descriptions of) directionality; (3) stability of settings. For example, if a toddler can learn the concept of containment, by having a stable access to specific containers chosen for their shape and sounds, they may more quickly learn to make mental "maps" or mental images of boundaries, including large and small spaces, and limitations on the environment, such as doors and windows.

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