OBSERVATIONS · play stages · pretend play · slice of life · speech · vocabulary development

Three Kinds of Play

SELF-DIRECTED PLAY: You know how they say you should never turn your back on the ocean? Well, you should never turn your back on a toddler. (Wait, I already knew that!) Well, I “turned my back” on Isabelle this morning while we were at her school. She was being looked after by her teacher and other parents when I left the room for 30 seconds to get her coat from the hallway. When I returned, I didn’t see her.

“Where’s Isabelle?” I asked, slightly worried. I say slightly since there’s only one egress from the classroom and I had been in front of it. She couldn’t have left.

Her teacher scanned the room with her eyes. Once she found her, she pointed to the corner. “She’s over there, mommy.”

I looked. It seems Isabelle made herself busy with a tea party while I was out of the room. So what did I do? I put our departure on-hold and joined her!


MOMMY-DIRECTED PLAY: Yesterday I bought Isabelle an opposites puzzle we’ve turned into a game. It’s a great way to practice fine motor skills, speech, vocabulary, and concepts. While she has a long way to go ’til she masters all of the words and concepts in this puzzle, she selected to play with it this afternoon. I was kind of surprised since it seems a little academic to me. But I guess she likes it. (I’m not complaining.) Here’s a look at her making an opposites match:

ISABELLE-DIRECTED PLAY: My mother-in-law came into town today, which allowed me to stow away in my office and get some work done. I came out of my office to check on the two of them and discovered quite a scene. The two of them were sitting on the floor together, complete with a tray of pretend cookies and cotton inside of a sugar bowl. Isabelle had a serious look on her face when I approached. She looked at me, picked up the tea pot, and poured each of them another cup of tea.

“She didn’t want to invite anyone else,” my mother-in-law said referencing the fact that the usual menagerie of stuffed animals wasn’t joining them.

“That’s okay,” I said.

I snapped a photo and left the room, remembering how Isabelle told me she wanted to have a tea party with Grandma later in the day. I guess she remembered her grand plan.



9 thoughts on “Three Kinds of Play

  1. I love that she made herself busy at school all by herself. What an independent little person! I love that you used a vine in your post. I’m still figuring those out!

  2. Young children at play are so interesting. I love how they ‘live’ the moment. I miss those days. Thanks for sharing such intimate moments.

  3. Such sweet moments to capture! Isabelle is a treasure. 🙂 I love that you took the time to join her tea party at school. Those are the times we sometimes let slip through our fingers when we’re too busy to enjoy them. You didn’t let that happen.

  4. I loved how you divided your blog into three parts with subheadings. Alongside each section, you included media to give an example of the type of play you were describing. I’d like to try that next in my own blog…

  5. I love tea parties, and I particularly like that Isabelle’s teacher allows the children in her classroom to engage in self-directed, individual play. What a great way to help toddlers develop autonomy and agency. Play is children’s work! And, it was nice that you were able to join her for a cup of tea.

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