With Valentine’s Day around the corner, it is a great time to play with friends. At The Parish School, preschool students develop and work on their play and social skills. Students move in stages of parallel play, associative play, and cooperative play. Not all children move at the same rate through the stages, because it depends on life experiences, confidence, shyness, self-esteem, birth order, and other personality traits.
In parallel play, children play adjacent to each other and do not try to influence one another’s behavior. In music, I see many young students in this stage play their instrument or dance independently, in their own music world, maybe aware of others, maybe not.
In associative play, children play together in a loosely organized fashion. There are some fleeting moments of cooperation in play. Children develop friends and preference for playing with some and not all children. A more mature child emerges as a leader who is capable and able to tell others what to do. Younger children follow the leader and seldom question the authority. In music, I see a few students tell other students what instruments to pick, how to play it, or how they should dance. The less mature student picks the instrument, plays a certain way, or follows the dance moves without question.
In cooperative play, children exchange ideas about the game that they are playing with at that moment in time. The rules of the game are loosely constructed and at the same time, children know who is playing what role in their game. They have communicated how they are going to play with materials and with whom. In music, I see students emerge as a leader of a drum circle, informing their peers how to play and their peers follow their directions. They know it is their role to follow the leader.
The Kangaroos and All-Stars are working on their associative play skills with scarf dancing. For our activity, Kangaroo students were partnered and directed to imitate the way their partner waves the scarf. After partnered and when the music started, all the Kangaroos started dancing independently, unaware of what their partner was doing. Many of them started skipping, galloping, and running around the room. After trying to partnering them back and modeling how to imitate their partner, one of the teachers suggested we have one leader. Great idea! M. Kangaroos was our leader and all the students followed her. For many of the students, this activity was easier to follow as a group. She led the group beautifully by visually and verbally telling her peers how to wave and dance with the scarf. Many of her peers were aware of her and followed her movements. There were some who were not aware of her movements and did not dance with her.
With the All-Stars class, many students demonstrated great associative play skills, following the leader without question or assistance. After working hard at being aware of one leader and following them, students had free dance. Some students continued in associative play, leading or following one other in dance moves or scarf ideas. Play and social skills continue to emerge, progress, and master as the our school year continues.