When? When does good play happen?

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At 22-months and older, toddlers may be involved in the acquisition of language at a heavier rate than at any other time in the life span. As preverbal toddlers name objects, "label" them, and imitate adult "talk", parents can fall into the trap of over-estimating what they think their toddler thinks. Toddlers are skillful manipulators and (documented) overestimate their own capacities. For example, a 16 month-old staggers upon a table and opens a cupboard door, knocking her head, and falling. Parent reacts - "You know better." Parents also see the negative "let me do it" and begin to believe it, losing their "take charge" image. Parents and teachers still have to be the authority figure. They may think "Oh…too babyish" to play peek-a-boo, put clothespins in bottles, climb in and out of baby pool. They may back away from old familiar "baby games" and social infant games with objects that have become favorites in infancy. The toddler's search for independence and ability to separate from adults for brief periods often leads caregivers to assume toddlers do not need structured interactive play that is work to the toddler.

But parents and teachers do, in fact, need to continue to re-introduce old and familiar objects and games as if they were new and novel, as well as some true novelty.

Build "good play" during routine, every day times. Ordinary activities are the most helpful in teaching toddlers to use humor, as well as language, in play. Parents need to refocus not on the language and mobility but on intentionality. Humor can guide a toddler into imaginative and creative play with social contact, but not without it. Even the most routine chores around the house, such as self-feeding, learning to dress oneself, toilet training, learning to make beds, cooking can provoke intentionality and purposeful play. When even higher levels of technology evolve as part of the search for sight restoration and compensation for visual loss, toddlers will have electronic and sonar "eyes". Just as broadcasters use headphones for listening to and receiving information, headphone glasses are bound to become "state-of-the-art" equipment in future years, providing the wearer with a voice-synthesized version of the immediate environment that is being scanned by the headglasses.

In the future, the possibility of fiber-optic circuitry that can emit visual responses in the model of a "bionic eye" is almost certain. Animal studies have shown that the brain can be stimulated to move electrical impulses in order to see. This is possible because optic nerve fibers, acting as tentacles reaching outward from the visual cortex, can be treated chemically to receive light sources.

Thus, timing in the developmental sequence is crucial. In the last half of the second year a developmental sequence was demonstrated over just a 3-month time span (19-to-22 months) that showed a dramatic shift associated with objects used specifically for pretend play. Toddlers progressed from using for example, cars and people in simple (self-directed) pretend play to more complex use of cars and people as objects of "other-directed" pretense, extending the play to include several variations on a single theme.

For the child with visual loss, the motivation to use objects in order to pretend, and then to expand on pretending, may require a step-by-step sequence that needs to be taught: (a) initial exposure to objects need to be accompanied by an adult describing how specific objects can be used; (b) experimentation, trial and error play needs to be guided by an adult who produces many episodes of pretense using many different objects; (c) variations and multiple pretend acts need to be demonstrated using both familiar and novel objects

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