Safari Kid, the center I visited to observe children during indoor and outdoor play time, is an international chain of preschools and after-school programs located in the heart of Silicon Valley in Newark California. The center provides an active learning environment for the learners ideal for fostering secure attachments and the child's needs. The children are attended to by nurturing and well-trained staff. The center aims at fostering child's social development. The center is guided by an interactive and dynamic curriculum which allows the children to explore their senses and free play. The center is well equipped with facilities that facilitate a child's play activities. The center has all-weather indoor play areas, technology corners, art studio as well as outdoor play spaces including swimming pools.
In gathering data from the children I observed, I used the behavioral observation method. Behavioral observation data collection method is a widely used tool in behavioral assessment which is preferred to other methods of behavioral assessment that rely on people's perceptions of behavior. Instead, behavioral observation entails watching and recording the behavior of the person in a typical environment such as a playing space or a classroom (Haynes & O'Brien, 2000). Behavioral observation is characterized by detailed procedures designed to collect valid and reliable data on a participant and factors that modify that behavior (Haynes & O'Brien, 2000). In this method, the researcher is stationed where the participant exhibits the behavior so that he or she observes and records the behavior as it unveils. The behavioral observation was preferred in this case study because its main aim was to collect data regarding children's play behaviors and abilities so that the researcher can establish foundational information upon which recommendations aimed at enhancing for each child can be made.
Harris is a level two pre-school learner at Safari Kid. I observed Harris during the outdoor play time when the children were engaged in various playing activities in the open space. Harris is aged two years and a half. During the play time, Harris was seated alone some few meters away from other children. He was silent and engaged with his toy. He had a helicopter toy which he played around with. He was still learning how to operate the toy. He appeared curious to understand the mechanism of the toy.
Harris plays level and demonstrated abilities can be said to fall under the solitary stage. According to Parten (1933), children at solitary play level prefer playing alone with little or no interest in what others around them are doing. The rationale behind this play stage common among children aged between two and three years is the fact that their physical, cognitive and social skills are not yet fully developed so that they still have difficulties operating the toys or interacting with others (Parten, 1933). However, it is an important stage that teaches kids how to self-entertain.
Given the fact that Harris is experiencing the solitary play level, it is important that play experiences that address the needs of this level are provided. This is a stage that the child can be assisted to expand cognitive and physical skills through playing. As such, Harris should be supplied with a variety of toys throughout the day to help him explore different toy mechanisms and expand her cognitive abilities. According to Goldstein (2012), a variety of toys help children discover what they are good at and what they like. This means that an assortment of toys for Harris can help him establish what he likes most and develop physical abilities required for undertaking that activity.
Mary Malia is a third level preschool child at Safari Kid center. She is aged three years. She is a jovial child. I observed her playing during indoor play time. Malia identifies with her friends and she liked picking toys similar to those of her friends. Malia and her friends played with the toys almost in a similar manner. However, there Malia exhibited less group involvement unlike some of her friends.
I can say that Malia is at the parallel play stage described by (Parten, 1933). At this stage, Parten (1933) argues that children can mimic one another but express low group involvement. It is a play stage experienced between two and a half and three and a half years. Whereas the children at this stage show little contact with one another, they are learning valuable social skills from each other. I realized that Malia, who is six months older than Harris appears to have moved from the stage of self-entertaining and playing to where she does her play near a group of peers.
Parten (1933) states that parallel play is a crucial stage for a child to learn valuable social skills from peers as well as transitioning into social maturity. As such, I realized that there are some play experiences that should be provided to Malia to enhance her growth. Examples are puzzle games and role play. Puzzle games involve some level of complexity and pattern drawing which Malia can learn from her peers. Likewise, role play games can encourage the development of various skills in children because they can assume the roles of different people. From this playing experience, Malia can obtain social skills than their peers express and can always improve as her peers.
Martin is a fourth level preschool child at Safari Kid center. He is four years old. He enjoys Peer company and participates in group activities during play time. I observed him play during outdoor activities, and he participated in various games with his friends. He demonstrates high cooperative skills and active participation.
Martin seems to be at the cooperative play. According to Parten (1933), cooperative play stage is where the child demonstrates a highly organized group playing and teamwork. The child is interested in not only the activity involved in but also the activity at hand (Parten, 1933). Martin demonstrates positive energy playing with peers and is so involved. This stage of play is a culmination of the other levels of play which have helped the child form social and group interactions.
Playing is crucial in helping Martin continue to grow and develop as he prepares for his schooling. I would provide a variety of play experiences for him to foster his cooperative skills. I would organize outdoor seasonal activities which provide for group working. For example, I would organize them into groups to build a snow family in the winter. I would also provide timed playground play in which Martin is engaged in a small group of peers where they participate in games like a jungle gym, the swings, and slide. I would also provide manipulative playing games such as puzzles and building exercises where children share various activities involved in building a house such as carrying building blocks, water, and other materials. Such activities shall further encourage teamwork and cooperative skill development.
Goldstein, J. (2012). Play in children's development, health and well-being. Brussels: Toy Industries of Europe.
Haynes, S. N., & O'Brien, W. H. (2000). Principles and Strategies of Behavioral Observation. In Principles and Practice of Behavioral Assessment (pp. 225-263). Springer, Boston, MA.
Parten, M. B. (1933). Social play among preschool children. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 28(2), 136.
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